Want to more respect and civility at work? Want to prevent and reduce bullying in your workplace? There has been an important first step. Just this summer, there was the first reading of a proposed act in British Columbia to prevent workplace bullying. This is very good news. While at this early stage, it is called the Workplace Bullying Prevention act, it only defines harassment in the prevention of workplace bullying. As you likely know, bullying is a form of Personal Harassment. The proposed bill defines harassment and will require employers to:
a) establish and implement a workplace harassment policy for reporting incidents, procedures for investigating incidents and complaints, and procedures to make workers accountable;
b) make a policy available to workers and
c) provide workers with information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure a harassment free workplace.
The newly enforced bill modifies the existing Worker’s Compensation Act to target the reduction and elimination of workplace bullying. It allows incidents of workplace harassment to be investigated, compensated, and dealt with in the same manner as workplace accidents. It outlines that it will provide less strenuous requirements for the award of compensation for mental stress in situations that involve harassment.
Ineterested in hearing what was actually said as it was presented in parliament? Here is Raj Chouhan introducing the bill where he refers to bullying, workplace harassment and harassment almost interchangeably:
R. Chouhan: We all know the negative impact of bullying on people. Victims of bullying have suffered severe trauma caused by harassment, and in some cases it has led people to commit suicide. Bullying does not stop on the playground. It can carry on to the workplace. Harassment causes psychological and physical harm. It includes wilful acts, patterns of behaviour, ignoring and isolating people. It is an act to humiliate and intimidate people. In a workplace victims of bullying are unable to work to their full capacity. This not only impacts individuals but also the business. Productivity is affected, and it becomes a financial loss for the business owners. This bill carefully defines “harassment” and provides measures and procedures for workers to report incidental workplace harassment. It provides sound policy for investigating incidents and making workers accountable for acts of harassment.
Other provinces such as Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba also have brought in similar laws. This is good news for preventing and responding to bullying in British Columbia workplaces.