While Bill 14 has not yet been passed into law, all indications seemingly point in the direction of the bill going through – meaning it’s more about “when” then it is about “if”.
When the bill is indeed passed, what is going to happen is that employers will need to be much more mindful about the mental health of their employees in the organization. At the current time, there is the opportunity to make a claim through WorkSafe BC with reference to workplace stress; however, it is very clear that the stress would be connected to a traumatic event arising out of the course of one’s employment.
The big change in the law will be that workplace stress claims may potentially be linked to bullying or harassment. Workplace stress may also be expanded to include an accumulation of work-related stressors that create an unhealthy and toxic workplace.
If an employee goes off on a work related stress issue under the new proposed bill, it could mean increased costs to employers not only by way of higher WorkSafe BC ratings; but also through a need for changes in organizatinal policies and in training for all employees so that everyone is clear on what constitutes bullying, harassment or accumulated stressors.
This is not really an over-the-top bill that’s being proposed and this is why I believe it will become a reality.
Bullying and harassment have become quite common, everyday words being used in our schools as well as our workplaces. Stress has been recognized for many years as having a negative impact on one’s health. But, it was never before seen as something an employee (or student) could do much about. Anti-depressants are being prescribed at an alarmingly high rate and human rights claims have also increased with respect to harassment. We’re even hearing about class action suits related to these things. Workplace investigations may also increase as a result of this change in legislation.
Not being able to do much may very well change by the summer of this year.
For those employers who do not already have personal harassment or bullying policies in pace, I highly recommend you consider implementing them. I also highly recommend you think about training the very people that will be needed to ensure the policies are adhered to; such as your managers and front line supervisors.
If the act does in fact get passed, the changes made to Section 5.1 of the Act will apply to any claims made or outstanding after July 1, 2012. It will indeed be interesting to watch!