To the editor:
Since the implementation of the new workplace legislation that came into effect on Nov. 1, 2013, employers across this province have the challenge to eliminate bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Workplace bullying and harassment is defined as “any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment. This includes behaviour from the public or a client to a worker.”
As a small business owner with employees, I am required to develop a policy statement and procedures to protect my workers from conduct or comments that can be considered intimidating or humiliating.
Recently, my employee was on a sales call in a local store. The intent of the sales call was to educate the store manager about the new legislation on workplace bullying and harassment and to offer our professional services to develop a training program for his workplace.
The manager grabbed my employee by the shoulders and spoke to her in an intimidating way.
There is no question that his conduct and words were intended to intimidate.
The irony of the situation prompted this letter to the editor. Here we are trying to educate business owners about workplace harassment and bullying and my employee is the one who is vulnerable.
As a result, I took the step to develop procedures for my sales team who work alone and engage extensively with the public.
In my recent conversations with the WorkSafeBC prevention officers in charge of workplace harassment and bullying, many employers are still unaware of the new legislation.
WSBC is already receiving numerous reports of bullying and harassment cases.
Often in these cases, the reporting procedures were unclear for the workforce and the employer did not complete an effective investigation into the complaint.
Workplace bullying and harassment is very similar to other safety related issues. An employer has the opportunity to eliminate problems before they happen.
Now is the time for business owners to take action. If an employer can think through the possible situations that can lead to workplace harassment and bullying, there is a greater chance that the employer can eliminate any conflict before it begins. If an employer can take the time to draft clear procedures in the event of a complaint, the easier time the employer will have addressing the complaint.
A critical component is to fully understand and think through the investigation process. What would the employer need to document? How can the investigation get to the root cause of the problem?
I work with numerous companies to help them put together programs for workplace harassment and bullying.
My clients have the attitude that they want to take initiative to foster a respectful workplace.
Happy workers are effective workers. A toxic work environment will poison relationships with customers and clients and choke productivity.
Smart employers are embracing this legislation to create workplaces where people are happy to go to work.
Victoria Baschzok, owner,
Safety Solutions At Work