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Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace: Employer Refresher Series

May 27, 2021

Overview of the Duty to Provide a Safe and Healthy Workplace

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy place to work.

This obligation extends to ensuring that the mental health of your employees is protected, which means that you must take all reasonable steps to prevent bullying & harassment from occurring in your workplace.

Topics that will be explored in this refresher series include:

·         Part I: What is Bullying and Harassment?

·         Part II: Developing a Bullying & Harassment Policy

·         Part III: Responding to a Bullying & Harassment Complaint

·         Part IV: Employer Best Practices to Prevent Bullying & Harassment

Why Have a Bullying & Harassment Policy

Employers in BC are legally required to have a policy statement addressing bullying and harassment, along with written procedures to report and respond to reports of bullying and harassment.

In addition to being a legal requirement, there is a wealth of research confirming that proactively creating a safe and inclusive workplace (in part, through the creation and implementation of effective policies) improves productivity and employee retention.

There is no one-size-fits all policy, in terms of format or structure. The policy should reflect your values and your culture, and be consistent with your other policies. It should also be written in plain language, without “wherein”, “hereby” or “heretofore”, or other legalese to complicate the ordinary meaning of the words.

What to Include In the Bullying & Harassment Policy

Regardless of structure, all bullying and harassment policies should include the following:

1.       A policy statement confirming that workplace bullying and harassment are not permitted within your workplace.

2.       The purpose/objective of the policy.

3.       Who the policy applies to (generally, this type of policy should extend beyond your employees).

4.       The roles and responsibilities of everyone in the workplace (including supervisors and workers) relating to preventing and addressing workplace bullying and harassment.

5.       A procedure for reporting complaints of workplace bullying and harassment, including:

a.       Who the complaint should be reported to (this should include a process for reporting where the complaint relates to human resources or management).

b.       How the complaint should be reported (we recommend in writing).

6.       The procedure for investigating and responding to complaints, including:

a.       How will the investigation be conducted?

b.       When will the investigation be conducted?

c.       What will the investigation include?

d.       What corrective actions are available?

e.       Record keeping requirements

7.       Details as to the implementation and review timeline for the policy (it must be reviewed at least annually).

Employees should be educated on your policy, and we recommend allowing them an opportunity to provide feedback (is it working? Is it readable? Do people feel comfortable reporting complaints? Why or why not?).

Finally, a policy is only as good as its implementation. If you have a policy – follow it!

Sounds simple, but often employers let their policies gather dust once drafted. Words on a paper are important, but implementation and action is required to address bullying and harassment.

We are here to help you and your organization stay on the right side of the line. For more on bullying and harassment policies, contact us today!