There was recently an article in the Vancouver Sun (May 3, 2012) referring to the BC Government being ready to take action against bullying and harassment in the workplace.
And just how does the Government intend to do this? One way will be through legislation of Bill 14 under the Worker’s Compensation Act.
It is clear that not only the Government is recognizing the importance of healthy workplaces; but Business Associations and the Coalition of BC Business are also showing support for the new proposed bill, which may expand the definition of violence in the workplace to include bullying. Compensation through Bill 14 would be expanded to include diagnosed mental disorders that are caused by significant work-related stressors.
Why should employers care? Let’s take a look at the attention already being received with respect to bullying and harassment. Two years ago, Bill 168 was passed in Ontario, which included language about what workplace harassment was and it included bullying, intimidation and various forms of violence in the workplace.
Since Bill 168 in Ontario, Borden, Ladner, Gervais (BLG Law) report that: “In the period between June 15, 2010 and March 31, 2011, Ministry of Labour Inspectors investigated more than 400 complaints involving workplace violence and more than 1,000 complaints involving workplace harassment. In addition, 600 orders associated with workplace violence and 1,100 orders related to workplace harassment have been issued by the Ministry of Labour.”
While we are seeing more recognition concerning workplace bullying and harassment, it’s not really anything new. It’s gaining recognition in part because of Bill 168 in Ontario, and in part because of all the media attention gained as a result of the RCMP class action suit that several women are putting forward with respect to harassment based on gender.
The RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has stated that he is committed to changing the culture of the force so that women feel welcome in the policing world and are respected for what they bring to the table and can do their work free from unwelcome comments and behaviours. He appears to be taking the harassment complaints very seriously and wants to work toward creating positive changes.
I believe that we will indeed see Bill 14 pass legislation – I don’t think it’s “IF”, I think it’s more about “WHEN”.
Exactly what the language will look like isn’t really known at this time but it will most certainly mean that employers will need to be sure to educate their workers so everyone has an understanding of what bullying and harassment can do in terms of creating undue stress in the workplace. I suspect that like Bill 168, training will be part of the legislation requirement as may be a risk assessment to determine if workplaces are doing enough to protect their employees.
Raj Chouhan, MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds, made the following statement on his website with reference to a re-introduction of a bill to tackle workplace bullying:
“Workplace bullying is a massive issue affecting workers in every sector of the province,” said Chouhan, the NDP’s labour critic. “It hurts workers, and it is bad for business.”
So, it would seem that there is definitely an interest in putting an end to – or certainly curbing – Workplace Bullying and Harassment at many levels.
Be proactive! Find out what you can do to protect your organization and give yourself a bit of a culture check. Are you ensuring your employees work in a safe, bully free environment? I’m sure we’ll hear more about this in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned.