New Workplace Obligations for B.C. Employers Soon to Take Effect

Authored by Derek B.M. Ross.

Charities with employees in British Columbia should be aware of new requirements that will soon apply to their workplaces. WorkSafeBC, the government agency responsible for administering the Workers Compensation Act, has released three new policies which will take effect on November 1, 2013. The policies apply to all workplaces in the province of British Columbia.

The three policies apply to employers, workers, and supervisors, respectively. The policy for employers states that, as part of their legal duty to ensure the health and safety of their workers, they must “take all reasonable steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment”.[i] The policy sets out specific actions that WorkSafeBC expects employers to take in order to meet this duty:

(a)  Develop a policy statement on workplace bullying and harassment

(b)  Take steps to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment

(c)  Develop and implement procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints

(d)  Develop and implement procedures for dealing with incidents or complaints

(e)  Inform workers of the policy statement and steps taken to prevent bullying and harassment

(f)   Train supervisors and workers

(g)  Annually review (a), (b), (c), and (d)

(h)  Do not engage in bullying and harassment of other workers

(i)   Apply and comply with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment

More information about each of these elements can be found in WorkSafeBC’s Small Business Guide on Workplace Bullying and Harassment as well as its detailed handbook.

WorkSafeBC has also prepared a “Bullying and harassment prevention tool kit” to help employers comply with their legal duties as outlined in these new policies. Included in the toolkit are guides on developing a policy statement and reporting/investigation procedures, along with templates that organizations can modify and adopt to fit their individual needs. CCCC members may also wish to review CCCC’s sample Ethics and Whistleblower policies. Although they are not designed specifically to meet WorkSafeBC’s new requirements, and modifications will be necessary, they may contain elements that charities would like to incorporate into their new bullying and harassment policies.

WorkSafeBC expects employers to be in compliance with new policies once they become effective on November 1, 2013. WorkSafeBC is not planning an “enforcement blitz”, and will respond to concerns about bullying and harassment through its existing inspection practices. If a WorkSafeBC officer inspects a workplace and finds the employer’s procedures to be deficient, he/she may order the employer to take steps to come into compliance. WorkSafeBC has stated that fines will not be issued unless the employer either fails to comply with such orders, or is found in non-compliance a number of times.[ii] Nevertheless, it would be prudent for employers to take proactive steps now and ensure they have policies and procedures in place that meet WorkSafeBC’s new requirements.


[i] WorkSafeBC Policy D3-115-2 applies to employers and explains their duties related to workplace bullying and harassment. The other two policies, D3-116-1 and D3-117-2, set out the duties of workers and supervisors, respectively.

[ii] WorkSafeBC, Frequently asked questions: Workplace bullying and harassment, online: <https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/information-sheets/workplace-bullying-and-harassment-frequently-asked-questions?>.

 

 

Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.