Employers flustered by new bullying rules

WorkSafeBC officers 'not taking a heavy-handed approach'

The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce says new workplace anti-bullying rules have caught businesses by surprise because not enough was done to spread awareness.

But not to worry, the provincial agency dedicated to protecting the safety of about 2.2 million workers will not be bullying the province's 215,000 employers into implementing new policies on workplace harassment.

"When the policy does go live on Friday, our officers . . . are not taking a heavy-handed approach," said Al Johnson, WorkSafeBC vice president of prevention services. "Our officers will not be out there on Day 1 writing orders and strongly enforcing this new policy."

Last March, WorkSafeBC adopted new rules stating businesses must adopt several anti-bullying and harassment policies by Nov. 1.

With only days to go before companies are expected to have new human resource practices in place, a Kamloops Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday showed just how little local entrepreneurs and HR personnel know about the rules.

"I don't think they've done a very good job of bringing it out," said Chamber president Bob Dieno. "In talking about it, I don't think most businesses actually have anything in place."

Dieno said he and other Chamber businesses never got wind of the rules and were never contacted directly.

"In my company, they've sent me nothing and I'm in the safety industry," said Dieno, who owns Nu Tech Fire and Safety. "It's pretty tough to enforce stuff or act on stuff when they don't do a really good job of making you aware."

The WorkSafeBC website provides a "toolkit" of resources with an employer fact sheet, handbook, small business guide and sample training presentation.

Johnson said the organization is taking a "consultative" approach during the early stages of implementation.

"We do have a mandate to respond to complaints so we will respond to complaints but . . . we recognize it will take some time for employers to get their heads around it and develop those policies that need to be in place."

Among new duties, employers are expected to train workers to recognize bullying and harassment, follow procedures created to deal with incidents and conduct an annual review of procedures.

However the website doesn't say how much time companies have to implement new practices, whether premiums will be affected and what punishments may be doled out.

"It doesn't say anything they will do. It just says: 'You must comply,'" said Dieno of the online material.

Nonetheless, he said he supports the measures in principle.

"This may take the intimidation factor away (from reporting harassment and bullying)."

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