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Preventing Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace bullying is growing in Canada. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 40 per cent of Canadian workers experience bullying on a weekly basis. The increase of bullying in the workplace led WorkSafeBC to introduce three new Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) policies in November 2013. These policies identify steps for employers, workers, and supervisors to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment.

The Definition of Bullying and Harassment

According to WorkSafeBC, bullying and harassment is any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that could cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.

This means verbal insults, vandalizing someone’s belongings or spreading rumours. However, not every unpleasant interaction in the workplace 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 actions ─ though managers and supervisors should ensure these issues are addressed in constructive and objective ways.

What is Included in the Bullying and Harassment Policies?

The policies outline 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 and a process to deal with incidents, and training workers and supervisors in how to recognize and respond to bullying and harassment.

What This Means for Your Small Business

All workplaces, regardless of size, need to have a bullying and harassment policy and procedures.

The first step is to review your existing policies and programs. If you already have a policy about conduct in the workplace, or about operational healthy and safety, you could simply update the policy to include bullying and harassment.

Regardless of if you are creating a new policy or amending a previous policy, it is important to provide a clear definition of bullying and harassment, including specific examples. You must outline who the policy applies to and how incidents will be managed.

If you have very few workers it is best to ask employees to report incidents to the WorkSafeBC prevention line at 1-888-621-7233.

Finding Help to Understand Your Obligations

To help you understand your obligations when it comes to preventing bullying and harassment, WorkSafeBC has put together a prevention tool kit that includes templates for the various procedures, training tools, Frequently Asked Questions, and posters you can put up in your workplace. Check out the toolkit at worksafebc.com/bullying.

For more information about this policy and what you can do to prevent bullying and harassment in your workplace, contact WorkSafeBC small business specialist, Glen McIntosh.