How does the new Workers Compensation Board (WCB) language on workplace bullying and harassment affect BCGEU members?
Prevention and Compensation
There are two aspects to all health and safety matters. First, procedures and systems must be put into place to prevent workplace injuries. Secondly, workers who suffer workplace injuries have a right to compensation.
Bullying and Harassment
On July 1, 2012, the Workers Compensation legislation regarding bullying and harassment was changed to include:
• Benefit coverage for mental disorder claims for workers who experience bullying and harassment in the workplace and are unable to work;
• The provision for the WCB to define bullying and harassment and to develop policies and procedures requiring employers to prevent and address workplace bullying and harassment.
Members have asked:
• How do the new WCB policies and procedures fit with the anti-bullying language the union has negotiated in many of our collective agreements?
• If I am bullied in my workplace, what are my options to make it stop?
• Should I be filing a complaint through the WCB process?
To answer these questions, it is important to review the union's response to bullying behavior. The union has spoken out loudly and clearly that bullying is not acceptable. Bullying in the workplace is wrong and should be addressed quickly and appropriately. Because all workers deserve a workplace that is free from harassment and bullying, we negotiated anti-bullying policies and protections in many of our agreements. We encourage employers to engage with us in developing and teaching respectful workplace practices.
What Should I Do If I Believe I've Been Bullied?
The WCB policy requires all employers to design and implement written anti-bullying policies and procedures by November 1, 2013. The policies must include a policy statement, steps to take to prevent bullying and harassment and training for workers and supervisors. Employers are required to develop procedures for workers to report incidents and complaints. The employer must also ensure there is a process to respond to complaints including conducting investigations. The union is taking steps to remind employers of their obligations to ensure these policies and procedures are in place.
All employers must now have a full policy in place that addresses bullying; how to complain; that an investigation will occur; and a conclusion. There are employers who not only have the policy in place but have also agreed to negotiate anti-bullying and harassment provisions in the collective agreement. If there is language in the collective agreement, members should follow that process. Where there is an employer policy but no collective agreement language, members should follow the policy procedures. If you work in a work site that has neither negotiated language, nor a clear policy, your staff representative and your OHS Committee will be working with employers to ensure they meet their obligations.
Where it is brought to the attention of the WCB that an employer has failed to implement a bullying policy, the WCB will investigate and if the employer has violated the compliance legislation, a WCB order may be issued.
Should I File a Claim for Compensation?
Under the new legislation, workers can file compensation claims for mental disorders. Bullying and harassment at work are now considered factors that may contribute to mental disorders. All mental disorder claims require a medical diagnosis from a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The WCB will make a decision about a claim for compensation due to a mental disorder. The decision is appealable. The union is concerned that member confidentiality about medical issues/causation are not protected in the WCB process. Where applicable, members may wish to use sick or other leave provision in the collective agreement, where confidentiality is protected.
Should I Use Sick Leave Benefits?
Yes, if you are ill and unable to work. If you've also filed a claim for WCB compensation and are successful, you will have to pay back any sick leave payments you received if these periods overlap. You should contact your staff representative to discuss overlapping claims.
The WCB has indicated there will be further direction to employers in the coming months about additional policy changes. The union will provide more information and direction to members when these changes occur.