On November 1, 2013, WorkSafeBC introduced three new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) policies that identified steps for employers, workers, and supervisors to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment. According to the policies, the definition of bullying and harassment includes:
“…any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.”
This could mean actions such as verbal insults, vandalizing someone’s belongings, or spreading rumours. It doesn’t mean, however, that every unpleasant interaction or workplace conflict is considered bullying and harassment. It also shouldn’t be confused with reasonable actions employers or supervisors take regarding areas like job duties, workloads, or disciplinary action ─ though managers and supervisors should ensure these issues are addressed in constructive and objective ways.
The policy outlines nine steps employers need to take so that they comply with their legal obligations to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment. These steps include developing a policy statement on bullying and harassment, implementing procedures for workers to report incidents as well as a process to deal with incidents, and training workers and supervisors in how to recognize and respond to bullying and harassment.
What does this mean for small businesses?
All workplaces, regardless of size, need to have a bullying and harassment policy and procedures. In a small business, you’ll need to make sure the policy and reporting process is appropriate for your workplace. For example, in a large company, it makes sense for workers to report incidents to their supervisor or employer. In a small business, where there are few workers or the employer is the alleged bully, then the reporting procedures should state that the worker can contact the WorkSafeBC prevention line (1.888.621.7233).
To help employers fulfill their obligations when it comes to preventing bullying and harassment, WorkSafeBC has put together a prevention tool kit, which includes templates for the various procedures, training tools, videos, FAQs, and posters you can put up in your workplace. Check out the toolkit at worksafebc.com/preventbullying.