What Employers Need to Know about Workplace Bullying and Harassment

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This section deals with the duties that employers have under the BC Workers Compensation Act. It outlines the steps employers must take in an effort to prevent or reduce workplace bullying and harassment.

Creating a respectful workplace

As an employer you can take steps to create a respectful workplace in a range of ways. For example:

  • Build a workplace culture that embraces differences and promotes inclusion.
  • Address bullying and harassment from the top down.
  • Consult with workers and unions, where applicable.
  • Understand how workplace structures and systems contribute to workplace bullying and harassment.

WorkSafeBC has a toolkit of resources that provides practical tips and information for employers about how to deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace. You may wish to start with the handbook Towards a Respectful Workplace.

If you are an employer in small business, see WorkSafeBC’s Small Business Guide on Workplace Bulling and Harassment.

Duty to protect worker’s health and safety

As an employer you have a duty to protect the health and safety of all workers who work for you, and any other workers who are at the workplace where your work is being carried out.

It is an employer’s duty to train workers and supervisors about bullying and harassment, and to prevent or reduce any bullying and harassment.

The steps you must take as an employer include:

  1. Understand your duties to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment.
  2. Do not take part in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors.
  3. Develop a written policy statement. This policy statement should state clearly that workplace bullying and harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. You must make sure that workers are aware of the policy statement.
  4. Develop and implement policies and procedures for workers to report incidents and complaints of workplace bullying and harassment.
  5. Develop and implement procedures for investigating incidents and complaints.
  6. Inform and train workers and supervisors about the following:
    • how to recognize bullying and harassment,
    • how workers who experience or witness bullying and harassment should report it,
    • where workers can go for help and what help will be provided,
    • who the contacts are for reporting incidents, and
    • who is responsible for following up on complaints and incidents.

Working to prevent and reduce workplace bullying and harassment

As an employer you must take actions to prevent or reduce workplace bullying and harassment as much as possible. For example, if you are aware of circumstances that present a risk of workplace bullying and harassment you might need to:

  • provide direction and supervision to affected workers,
  • offer training on managing difficult situations, and
  • make workplace arrangements to reduce the risks of bullying and harassment.

Reporting incidents

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As an employer you must put procedures in place that state how you will deal with incidents of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Your procedures should:

  • provide a reasonable response,
  • aim to fully address the incident,
  • make sure future bullying and harassment is prevented or reduced as much as possible,
  • indicate to workers how to report bullying and harassment,
  • advise workers whom they should report to,
  • state what should be included in the report,
  • provide details on how an investigation will be conducted, and
  • what follow-up will occur, including the time frame for addressing the behaviour and possible corrective actions.

The procedures about reporting should also include what the worker can do if the bully is:

  • the employer, a supervisor, a person acting on behalf of the employer, or
  • a client, a customer, or someone else outside the workplace structure.

If you have a small business with few personnel, then your procedures can say that workers can contact the WorkSafeBC prevention information line to report the incident.

WorkSafeBC Prevention Information Line
Lower Mainland: 604-276-3100
Toll-free within BC: 1-888-621-7233

Conducting an investigation

The purpose of conducting an investigation is to determine whether bullying and harassment has occurred.

An employer needs to make it clear to workers that complaints will be treated seriously and addressed promptly. Investigations should:

  • take place promptly and be as thorough as is necessary,
  • be fair and impartial,
  • be sensitive to everyone’s interests and maintain confidentiality as much as possible, and
  • provide assistance with the process to the people involved if they ask for it or if they need it.

WorkSafeBC has an investigations guide that includes sample questions employers can ask as part of an investigation process. It is available in the resources section of their website.

Inspections

WorkSafeBC will inspect workplaces to make sure employers have taken reasonable steps to develop and implement an effective program to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2014.



Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence Workplace Bullying and Harassment © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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