The time crunch is on for every store, shop, business or government agency to ensure everyone is nice.
Under the new Work Safe B.C. policies, in effect Nov. 1, B.C. businesses must all have those to ensure bullying, swearing and harassment isn’t tolerated by anyone in the place of work.
“Everybody is obligated. Everybody has to comply,” said Roberta Ellis, senior vice-president with WorkSafe B.C.
And while businesses owners could see a policy as another bureaucratic burden, having one that deals with workplace bullying and harassment can actually help a business thrive by creating a good atmosphere where people want to work.
In consultations WorkSafe has had so far with employer groups, the response has been positive.
Ellis said the reaction has been largely positive from the business community.
“At this stage, we’ve been very pleased with the support.”
“A lot of the employers are quite OK with the rules of the game being clarified.”
Ellis said the intent was to keep the policy as simple as possible. Ordinary workplace interaction doesn’t constitute harassment.
“They’re saying not every unpleasant or challenging situation in the work place constitutes harassment.”
In other words, a manager talking to a worker about showing up late or not meeting deadlines, wouldn’t fall under the policy
“Any reasonable action that you’re taking to manage and direct workers, that’s not harassment.”
What could be considered harassment or bullying though is name calling, insults or verbal aggression, or yelling, a la Chef Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen.
“It’s the humiliation and intimidation stuff.”
Maple Ridge municipal hall is currently working on a respectful workplace policy that will encompass the new rules and will be ready by Nov. 1, said Mayor Ernie Daykin.
Staff have been working on that for about the past year, he added.
“We’re on top of it,” added City of Pitt Meadows human resources director Lorna Jones.
The city already joins with the Canadian Union of Public Employees in issuing a joint statement saying that harassment won’t be tolerated at municipal operations.
Now, it’s just ensuring it meets all of the new WorkSafe regulations by ensuring employees are trained on the new procedures. There’s a committee to investigate complaints and forms are available for filing complaints.
“This has been around for a while and we’re just updating with the new WorkSafe requirements.”
Jones said such a policy doesn’t cover elected members of Pitt Meadows council. Councillors are not considered employees of the city.
Legal advice from the District of Maple Ridge said the same thing earlier this year.
Clarence Friesen, with WorkSafe BC, said the new policy will be a “game changer” in workplace rules, given that shouting and screaming are now expressly prohibited.
Ellis said about a quarter of the 2,800 mental health complaints that have been filed with WorkSafe since legislation was changed last year alleged bullying or harassment.
Business owners who want to know where to start, can look at WorkSafe’s website, but creating a policy needn’t be a complicated effort. Templates will create a sample policy that can guide businesses as they write their policies.
The policy can be as short as one page, simply saying that the workplace doesn’t tolerate bullying or harassment and telling people if they see it, to report it. A shop or business must also have a procedure for investigating it.
Just as every business has to have a safety policy, it now must have an anti-bullying policy.
“If an officer is at your worksite, they’re going to want to know that you have a policy.”
“So have the policy and develop the procedures for reporting the incident and dealing with them,” and inform employees, Ellis added.
“Everybody is obliged to comply. If you’re a B.C. provincially regulated workplace you fall under us.”