Canada: New WorkSafeBC Policies On Bullying And Harassment - A Review Of The Duties Of Employers In BC


On July 1, 2012, Section 5.1(1)(a)(ii) of the Workers Compensation Act (the "Act") was enacted. Part of this new provision provides that a worker's mental disorder is compensable under the Act where that disorder is caused by a work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment. Taken together with Section 115 of the Act, Section 5.1 requires employers to address bullying and harassment as they would any other hazard in the workplace by taking all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and those workers present at a workplace where their work is being carried out.

WorkSafeBC's Board of Directors approved new occupational health and safety policies which came into effect on November 1, 2013, establishing the duties of employers, supervisors and workers to prevent workplace bullying and harassment. The WorkSafeBC policies guide Board officers in their adjudication of claims by workers for compensation, and the inspection of workplaces to ensure compliance with safety obligations. The policy for employers sets out a number of specific requirements that employers must implement to prevent and address bullying and harassment in the workplace, and to ensure the safety and well-being of workers. The policies for workers and supervisors set out the obligations not to engage in conduct amounting to bullying or harassment, to report such conduct and to comply with the employer's policies.

This article identifies the requirements of the new policy as it applies to employers, and discusses the steps to be taken by employers in BC to effect compliance with the policy.

Claims Experience under Section 5.1 to date

There had been concern raised that the change to the Act in 2012 would turn instances of workplace conflict related to progressive discipline, or other types of management interaction between supervisors and workers, into a flood of compensation claims. The experience to date, as reported in an October 30, 2013 article by Keven Drews of Canadian Press, is that about 700 claims have been received by WorkSafeBC since July 2012 where mistreatment or bullying was alleged, and of those about 40 have been accepted. This experience was before the introduction of the policies by WorkSafeBC, which will now be used by officers in adjudicating claims. It is not clear what effect the policies will have on claims beyond identifying required actions by employers, and allowing for enforcement of these obligations under the Act.

The WorkSafeBC Tool kit

Worksafe has created a tool kit for employers to understand and comply with the changes to the legislation and the policies - replete with FAQs, videos and posters. Employers are directed to the WorkSafeBC website and tool kit for information and guidance on identifying and adjudicating the employer's duties as established by the new policy.

Policy Requirements for BC's Employers

The policy requires employers to do the following to address workplace bullying and harassment:

  1. develop a policy statement with respect to workplace bulling and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;
  2. take steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment;
  3. develop and implement procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including how, when and to whom a worker should report incidents or complaints. This must include procedures for a worker to report if the employer, supervisor or person acting on behalf of the employer is the alleged bully and harasser;
  4. develop and implement procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment, including investigations and the scope thereof, roles and responsibilities, follow-up measures, and record-keeping;
  5. inform workers of the policy statement in (1) and the measures taken in (2);
  6. train supervisors and workers to recognize the potential for bullying and harassment, respond to bullying and harassment, and be aware of procedures for reporting and dealing with incidents and complaints of bullying and harassment in (3) and (4) respectively;
  7. conduct annual reviews;
  8. not engage in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors; and
  9. apply and comply with the employer's policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

The immediate requirements for employers are the creation of an anti-bullying and harassment policy statement, development of procedures around reporting and investigation of bullying and harassment-related complaints, and providing training regarding bullying and harassment.

Compliance with the policy is mandatory. In the case of a claim by a worker for compensation based on alleged bullying and harassment, any ensuing WorkSafeBC investigation would include a review of the measures taken by an employer to comply with the policy and ensure the health and safety of the worker. The findings of WorkSafeBC officers on the sufficiency of policies and practices put in place by the employer may result in orders made against the employer, and could in some cases lead to penalties under the Act where the employer has failed to comply with the Act and the policy.

Definition of Bullying and Harassment

The policy defines "bullying and harassment" as follows:

a) includes 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

b) excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.

This definition is important because it will be applied by WorkSafeBC officers in determining whether bullying and harassment has occurred. The definition limits the scope of conduct which could give rise to a compensable injury by recognizing the role of the employer in managing and directing workers, including disciplining workers, so long as such conduct is "reasonable". The definition contains an exclusion for "any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment".

A central concern for employers in developing compliant policies should be including a solid working definition of bullying and harassment and identifying unacceptable behaviour. A clear and precise definition will assist employees and others in the workplace to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and will form the basis for the conduct to be dealt with under the employer's bullying and harassment policies. The above definition from the adopted WorkSafeBC policy provides a good starting point, but employers will want to consider additional components to the definition in their own policies. Employers should use a definition that retains the core of the policy version above, such as the concepts of: inappropriate behaviours and comments; humiliation and intimidation of a worker; and, an objective standard of reasonableness with which to gauge the action by the employer or supervisor.

The development of a definition will also aid in the development of the required policy statement, which should reference the definition adopted by the employer and state unequivocally that behaviours constituting bullying and harassment are not acceptable or tolerated in the employer's workplace.

Policy Development

The development of anti-bullying and harassment policies will involve some expense and administrative burden for employers. Adding to existing policies will help employers minimize such costs while ensuring compliance with the WorkSafe requirements. An assessment of existing workplace policies that relate to bullying and harassment should be the starting point for employers who want to ensure their current workplace policies and practices comply with the WorkSafe requirements.

For example, for most employers existing workplace policies concerning sexual harassment, discrimination and/or the creation of a safe and respectful workplace will form the basis for new policies and allow employers to develop and implement compliant policies and practices around bullying and harassment. Employers must take care to ensure that existing policies are changed when necessary to include non-sexual forms of bullying and/or harassment contemplated by the policy, including behaviours that could reasonably cause a worker to be humiliated or intimidated.

When developing anti-bullying and harassment policies and practices, employers should note that the definition of "bullying and harassment" in the policy includes inappropriate conduct or comment by a "person" towards a worker, whether or not that person is a member of the employer's workplace. This broad definition contemplates persons within the employer's direction and control, such as the employer themselves, supervisors, or co-workers, but also includes persons outside the employer's direction and control, such as members of the public, clients, or anyone a worker comes into contact with in the course of performing his/her job at the workplace. Employers must ensure that policies include the possibility that such actions may originate with persons external to the workplace.


An important part of the employer's bullying and harassment policies will be the procedures for reporting incidents or complaints about bullying or harassment, and the process for investigating, following-up on, and keeping record of such reports and investigations.

Employers' policies with regard to reporting must be clear on the steps required of workers who decide to report such incidents, and include at least two scenarios for each worker: one utilizing the regular organizational reporting structure, and another permitting an alternate method where the alleged "bully" or "harasser" is the worker's supervisor or the employer. The former is unlikely to present a serious problem, and a reporting may map easily over the existing organizational structure. However, alternate reporting methods in smaller workplaces will have to be creative in devising ways for workers to inform superiors, the employer, or another designated person in the workplace about incidents or complaints.


Policies related to the scope of investigations, roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others in the investigation process, responses and follow-up actions, and record-keeping will also need to be workplace-specific. Employers must take care to abide by all existing policies, employment contracts, and collective agreement terms when developing and implementing investigation policies. Records of investigations must be retained to evidence compliance with the policy in the same manner as records are kept of all other workplace accidents and injuries.


Informing workers of the employer's bullying and harassment policies, and providing workers and supervisors with bullying and harassment-related training, is required under the policy, and employers should consider how best to include such material in their existing training practices. Such groups as ARETE Safety and Protection Inc. ( have developed specific training courses offered to employers to educate supervisors and workers regarding acceptable conduct in the workplace to comply with the policy.


WorkSafeBC's new policies regarding bullying and harassment require employers to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of workers. WorkSafe has provided a comprehensive tool kit to assist employers to comply with the new policy requirements. By making use of this information, and drawing on efficiencies presented by existing workplace policies, most employers should be able to ensure that they comply with the new requirements without incurring significant additional cost. While the effect of the new policies on the adjudication of compensation claims under Section 5.1 of the Act is yet to be seen, the policy is mandatory and employers must take steps now to ensure that they are in compliance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Roper Greyell LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Roper Greyell LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions