Bill 14: The new bullying law in BC - is your workplace prepared?
Bill 14 (the Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 2011) introduced amendments to the BC Workers’ Compensation Act, to specifically address bullying and harassment. These amendments are found primarily in section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
As of July 1, 2012, an employee may have a compensable claim for a mental disorder if that mental disorder is a reaction to a traumatic event in the workplace, or is caused by a significant work related stressor. A work related stressor is considered significant when it exceeds the intensity and/or duration expected from the normal pressures or tensions of the employee’s workplace: this includes bullying or harassment.
Bill 14 also eliminated the phrase “mental stress” in favour of “mental disorder”, and included specific wording to deal with bullying and harassment as a cause of such a disorder.
WorkSafeBC, which is tasked with the implementation of the Workers’ Compensation Act, has developed draft policies and accompanying discussion papers addressing the key legislative changes. These are available on the WorkSafeBC website.
WorkSafeBC is also currently developing a prevention policy and tool kit aimed at employers and employees to help in understanding, preventing and addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace. The terms bullying and harassment are not yet defined, however, and likely won’t be until WorkSafeBC completes development of this prevention policy, which may not be until after the fall of 2012.
The prevention policy and tool kit will assist workers and employers to:
- Understand their obligations under the Workers Compensation Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, and Occupational Health and Safety Policy in relation to workplace bullying and harassment;
- Identify what is workplace bullying and harassment;
- Take steps to prevent workplace bullying and harassment; and
- Address incidents of workplace bullying and harassment when they occur.
What does this mean for your workplace? Employers should ensure they are well versed in the new language and requirements of section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, and should inform and educate their employees on these changes. A comprehensive workplace policy which addresses bullying and harassment is crucial to maintaining a respectful and informed workplace, and avoiding claims.