Workplace bullying can lead to injury, illness, and death, according to WorkSafeBC. As a result, the provincial workers’ compensation board has implemented a new policy that requires all B.C. workplaces to introduce proactive anti-bullying measures.
The policy came into effect on Friday, November 1st, and has been implemented to help employers, workers and supervisors better understand their obligations relating to bullying and harassment.
The change further supports the legislative changes made in July of 2012, when employees became eligible to receive compensation through WorkSafeBC if they can prove that a mental disorder is being suffered from as a result of bullying or harassment at work.
Since coming into effect over one year ago, there have been approximately 2,000 claims in the province, said Robyn Durling, spokesperson for both WorkSafeBC and BullyFreeBC.
A new website, worksafebc.com, offers videos which clearly define bullying and harassment for employees, and there are checklists to help employers understand the requirements of the policy.
“I would like to see more education going towards general practitioners who I think will be on the frontline when people get fed up with being bullied at work and want to go to their doctor and say they need stress leave – practitioners need to know about the new legal framework that’s in place,” said Mr. Durling.
He said that the problem does not affect rural areas more or less than urban, a point that Pat Cope from the Family Resource Centre in Invermere agreed with.
“I think it affects individuals in all communities,” she said. “I think raising awareness always drives changes, I would hope that change will be made where it needs to be.”
A quarter of the harassment claims in B.C. came from the health care sector, said Mr. Durling, followed by the transportation industry, with the food, retail and tourism sector coming in at number three.
One reason those sectors yielded such high numbers is because they are large-scale industries, he explained.
The recent change requires employers to ensure that their staff are informed of their workplace rights in respect to bullying and harassment.
“It also requires employers to investigate complaints of this kind,” explained Mr. Durling. “It requires employers to take affirmative steps to make sure that their employees know their rights, to train supervisors about what bullying and harassment are, and to make sure supervisors don’t engage in those.”
He explained how bullying can be misrepresented, “It’s not always yelling and shouting at people — one of the ways people bully others is by ignoring and isolating them. A lot of times it’s making somebody not feeling like a part of the team.”
He hopes to see WorkSafeBC effectively deliver the information through the province, and admits that he hasn’t noticed a whole lot of publicity around the issue.
Also, general practitioners in the province will need to adapt to treat these problems, he said.