I’ve been talking about Bill 14 for a while now, believing that it would be indeed come to fruition, and as of May 31, 2012; it was indeed enacted and will come into force as noted above.
This is something that will have an impact on all employers in B.C. because it means that personal harassment, or bullying; or continued work-related stress could become Worker’s Compensation Claims.
Because this is now legislation, employers will need to be concerned about performing risk assessments in their workplaces, developing policies to address potential bullying and personal harassment complaints, they will need to entertain investigations that they might not otherwise have taken on, they will need to educate leaders and employees in the organization not only on how to identify bullying; but also how to process complaints.
The Occupational Health and Safety Bill 168 in Ontario, while it is different legislation, is similar in that there is a requirement to put into place all the items I mentioned above.
So, what does that mean for B.C. employers? Well, failure to comply could possibly result in fines administered by WorkSafe BC under the Worker’s Compensation Act; it could result in higher costs if claims are made and not addressed accordingly, and it could mean more human rights complaints resulting from mismanaged complaints.
Education is going to be crucial in managing this new legislative bill and communicating with employees at all levels in terms of what constituted bullying, harassment, work-related stress, will be huge. There are some parameters that have been set by the Worker’s Compensation Act. Mental stress will be identified as mental disorder and will require psychiatric diagnosis; however, oftentimes bullying and harassment can lead to post traumatic stress disorders or depression, which conceivably would be managed by psychiatric referrals.
Currently, WorkSafeBC only compensates mental stress that is an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.
Bill 14, the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011:
- replaces the references to mental stress with mental disorder;
- replaces the reference to physician with psychiatrist; and
- broadens entitlement for mental disorders that are:
- a reaction to one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment, or
- predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.
As can be seen from this amendment, if these areas are being identified as areas in which workers can make compensation claims, then employers must take some action to ensure that they do everything to create and maintain healthy work places.
Simply Communicating and North Okanagan Investigations have joined forces to help companies meet their obligations under the proposed legislation. Rick Lavin and Kellie Auld have over 60 years of experience in Human Resources, Workplace Relations, and Investigation. Our team of professionals has developed a series of training packages specifically with Bill 14 in mind. The information and strategies have been reviewed by our team of labour lawyers to ensure the information is accurate, legal, and appropriate for your business.