As I’ve discussed on previous writings, Bill 14 (BC Worker’s Compensation Amendment Act Section 5.1) has now passed legislation and comes into effect July 2, 2012.
There is a lot of material being distributed by Work Safe BC as well as from employment lawyers to ensure that employers understand what this new legislation means to them. I hope that employers will take the opportunity to make sure that they are complying with the new Bill and they are following best practices when it comes to policy development, and bullying specifically.
We have training materials to help employers too. The materials give employers not only information, but also robust policy language and training materials, videos and DVD’s to help organizations implement what is needed to effectively train employees at all levels of the organization. Take a look at what’s there at www.bill14.ca to see what I’m referring to.
What I think is really important for employers to know is that in the year after Ontario passed amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to address workplace violence and harassment, the province has issued about 1,100 orders related to the new legislation. This is information received from the Ministry of Labour in that province.
Ontario’s legislation requires employers to assess workplace violence risks and develop workplace violence and harassment policies as well as educational programs. This is similar to the requirements as set out in Bill 14; however, their rules are even more stringent than ours here in B.C.
From June 15, 2010 to March 31, 2011, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour inspectors investigated more than 400 complaints involving workplace violence and issued about 600 orders associated with the new legislation. They also investigated more than 1,000 complaints involving workplace harassment and as mentioned, issued about 1,100 orders associated with the new law. (Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada)
What this information tells me is that there is indeed serious action being taken as a result of Bill 168. While Ontario’s legislation with respect to workplace violence is slightly different than BC’s legislation, (BC does not yet speak about violence from employee to employee) it is still the duty of an employer to provide education for workers in order to protect them from harm on the worksite. This is not restricted to WHMIS and MSDS training for those who come into contact with hazardous materials; it also include ergonomic risks, physical hazards (cold, heat, noise) as well as stress and violence in the workplace resulting from bullying, threatening behaviour, verbal threats and verbal abuse.
I have seen some case law examples recently as well that would clearly indicate Ontario courts are also taking this matter of workplace violence quite seriously, in one case upholding the termination of a long service employee Kingston (City) v. Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 109 (Hudson Grievance) and more recently, upholding a 5 day suspension against a construction employee for threats he made to his foreman (see Teston Pipelines Limited vs. Labourer’ s International Union of North America – http://www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com/two-death-threats-against-foreman-land-employee-five-day-suspension-employer-required-to-act
I think B.C. employers should be sitting up and taking notice of what has gone on in Ontario. The mere fact that the legislation was passed should send the message that bullying and psychological harassment in the workplace can no longer be tolerated.
I hope all employers choose to do the right thing – not because it’s now in legislation – but because they want to have a healthy, productive workplace in which all of your employees, regardless of who they are, can go to work and not deal with the kind of undue stress of workplace harassment and bullying.