B.C. Employers should to be aware of three recent amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act and Regulations, which will force them to look at bullying and harassment most seriously.
The definition of a remunerative mental disorder was modified in 2012, thus allowing employees to assert workers’ compensation benefits, if they become disabled resulting from a toxic work environment where serious workplace bullying or harassment was present.
As of November 1, 2013, employers will be required to implement bullying and harassment policies and training.
The precise behaviours that will qualify as prohibited bullying and harassment remain to be seen, however, the definition will cover the conduct of managers and colleagues, while clearly excluding “reasonable” performance management and discipline.
The rules define “bullying and harassment” as “any inappropriate conduct or comment that the person knew, or ought to have known, would cause an employee to be intimated and/or humiliated.
Premature decisions from WorkSafe BC indicate that only sustained severe abuse would qualify, as many of their accepted claims have involved specific or implicit threats of violence.
In order to forestall bullying and harassment, employers must, by November 1, 2013:
- Implement a Policy;
- Train employees and managers on the Policy; and
- Produce a grievance and grievance resolution procedure.
A good number of employers already have policies prohibiting harassment in place, such as sexual harassment, which are supported by grounds that are prohibited by the Human Rights Code.
These policies should be amended to cover bullying and harassment unrelated to Human Rights Code grounds. Employers additionally need to offer updated training on their new policy, ideally as a part of broader coaching on all prohibited forms of harassment.
I append this article with the Resolutions of the Board of Directors, WorkSafe BC with respect to the aforementioned amendments:
Research Resources: Mondaq, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, WorkSafe BC