It is interesting talking to some business owners about bullying and harassment, especially those with staff. When I ask some if they are in compliance with Bill 14, the WorkSafeBC legislation on bullying and harassment in the workplace they reply, “We don’t need it, there is none in our workplace”, or, “They should just get over it”.
You do need it, because it is the law, and ‘getting over it’ for some, is not that easy because of how it affects them.
Workplace bullying can seriously impact employees and manifest itself as;
- Stress – this alone can cause devastating effects on the health of individuals
- Absenteeism – some will avoid the problem
- Anxiety and depression
- Digestive issues – one of the effects of stress
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia – seriously affects sleep patterns
- Relationship issues in personal life – it is difficult not to take it home with you
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – it can become a serious disability affecting mental health
It not only affects employees. If you are in business, this affects your bottom line in the following ways;
- Increases the cost of sickness benefits. Premiums are based on usage.
- Lowers productivity due to absenteeism and lack of motivation. In the UK it is estimated that each year 18.9 million workdays are lost due to bullying.
- Increases employee turnover. If bullying is allowed to continue then employees may leave to avoid the stress. Recruitment and training is costly. 75% of victims of bullying leave their job.
- Affects your ability to recruit quality employees. Your reputation is your key recruitment tool.
So, what exactly is classed as bullying and harassment?
- Behaviour that humiliates or intimidates
- Examples might include:
- Verbal aggression or name-calling
- Vandalizing personal belongings
- Sabotaging work
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Humiliating initiation practices / hazing
- Personal attacks
- Aggressive / threatening gestures
- Sexual harassment
- Cyber-bullying. It can include sending harassing emails or text messages, or posting humiliating or intimidating information on social media or websites. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more prevalent.
Bullying can come from many sources including co-workers, supervisors and employers, or from external sources such as clients, customers, members of the public, or workers from other organizations.
Each situation has to be considered in context. For example, yelling to warn someone about a hazard might be appropriate given the situation, but calling someone demeaning names in front of clients or other workers is probably not. Intent is not an excuse!
It is not bullying when;
- Expressing differences of opinion
- Offering constructive feedback
- Making a legitimate complaint about another worker’s conduct
- Taking reasonable management action, including decisions about:
- Job duties and work to be performed
- Workloads and deadlines
- Layoffs, transfers, promotions, and reorganizations
- Work instruction, supervision, or feedback
- Work evaluation
- Performance management
- Discipline, suspensions, or terminations
If you are registered with WorkSafeBC, you are legally required to do the following;
- Develop a policy statement on bullying and harassment
- Take steps to prevent or minimize bullying and harassment
- Develop and implement procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints
- Develop and implement procedures for dealing with incidents or complaints
- Inform workers of the policy statement and steps taken to prevent bullying and harassment
- Train supervisors and workers
- Annually review the above
There are several reasons why it is a good idea to comply with this legislation.
- It is the law
- Employees may have a better feeling about the workplace knowing that there is a process in place to deal with bullying.
- The process can stop the bullying before it becomes a WorkSafe issue.
- If it becomes a WorkSafe issue and you have not done your due diligence, you may face fines and certainly will experience higher WorkSafe rates.
- The over-riding reasons are protecting your employees and your bottom-line
- Also, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of WorkSafeBC investigating your workplace, it kinda gets in the way!
This legislation went into effect in November 1, 2013. Full details and resources are available on www.worksafebc.com If you require assistance please contact us for a free consultation.
You owe it to your employees and your business.
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