When I start working with a new client, it typically starts with an HR Audit. This is a process where I look at all of an organization’s practices, as they pertain to their people. I then identify what things they are doing well, areas they are leaving themselves exposed, and then state what I can do to close the gap.
When I get to the segment on “Employee Safety”, one of my first questions is, “Have you done your Bill-14 Training?” This question is often met with a blank stare, followed by, “What is Bill-14?”
What is Bill-14?
Bill-14 is legislation put out by WorkSafeBC, that took effect on November 1, 2013 and addresses workplace bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace. This legislation applies to all employers, workers and supervisors in British Columbia. These obligations include preventing and managing workplace bullying and harassment through training and information.
What is Bullying and Harassment?
Bullying and harassment is basically any unwanted behaviour (actions or words) from one person to another in the workplace that the person knew or ought to have known would make the recipient feel intimidated or humiliated. It is not limited to worker on worker behaviour; it can be also be behaviour from a customer or vendor. It is also not exclusive to the workplace. If these behaviours carry over into after hours behaviour, the legislation still applies.
What is NOT Bullying and Harassment?
Any reasonable management action, such as work redirection, constructive criticism, enforcement of deadlines or obligations, are not considered bullying and/or harassment, as long as they are conducted in a dignified manner. Just because we don’t like something we see or hear at work, does not mean it is bullying or harassment.
What are My Responsibilities as an Employer?
As an employer, you are responsible for developing a written policy on bullying and harassment, and for ensuring all employees are made aware of this policy.
As an employer, if you are aware of a risk for bullying and/or harassment in the workplace, it is your responsibility to put steps in place to minimize this risk. If the potential risk is between two coworkers, can they be put on different shifts, or provided work in different areas of the operation?
You must have a process in place for employees to report incidents, and advise what amount of detail is required in the report. There should be a person designated to receive these complaints. There should also be a procedure in place, in the event the business owner (you!) or a supervisor is the alleged bully. If the business is too small to allow for this, then employees must be advised that they can contact the WorkSafeBC Prevention Information Line directly, at 1-888-621-7233 to report a claim.
Have a Formal Process for Handling Complaints
It is your responsibility as an employer, to have written procedures that clearly state how you will handle complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. When developing these procedures, keep in mind that they must be timely, must deal with the issue and also ensure that further incidents are minimized or prevented. These procedures must clearly state:
- How and when (and by whom) the investigations will be conducted.
- The type of information that will be collected
- What everyone’s role is in the process (employer, supervisor, employees (including witnesses)
- Record-keeping responsibilities
How do you Inform Employees?
One of the best ways to provide this information to employees, and to ensure that all employees are informed, is to make Bill-14 Training part of your Onboarding process. You can also raise awareness by putting up posters, including information in employee newsletters or in email blasts.
What do I tell Employees?
You need to ensure that all employees understand their responsibilities under this legislation. In order to do this, your training must include:
- Your organization’s policy statement on bullying and harassment
- How to recognize bullying and harassment
- What to do if an employee is a victim of, or a witness to bullying and harassment
- The reporting procedures
Since this legislation came into play, there have been many WorkSafeBC claims filed under it, however not many of them have been accepted. They are difficult claims to adjudicate, however I can guarantee one thing. The first question an Officer from WorkSafeBC will ask you, when investigating a claim of this type is, “Have you done your Bill-14 Training?”
Ensure you are compliant with this legislation. The WorkSafeBC site has a lot of resources to assist you. Alternatively, we have a program ready to go! We can come to your workplace and facilitate the one-hour training program for a maximum of 20 participants at a time. At the end of the course, your employees will write a test to check their understanding. This test is then your proof to WorkSafeBC that the training has been conducted.
We would be pleased to assist you with this, in any way we can. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com.