June brings sunny summer weather, the end of school for kids and, in Alberta this year, it also marks the implementation of updates to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation. Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans came into effect on June 1, 2018. Among other goals, this Bill aims to improve worker safety and modernize workplace standards and practices. One of the main additions to this Bill is the explicit inclusion of mental health and safety in the workplace.
The focus on mental health along with the removal of stigmatization associated with mental health issues has increased rapidly over the last few years. Likewise, the focus on providing a psychologically safe workplace has also increased. We have seen a shift in society over the decades from workers being expected to be grateful to have a job and put up with things like yelling and bullying in the workplace to one where employers are required to actively take steps to prevent such things from occurring.
While we all agree that this is a positive and progressive change, many employers are not sure what the OHS update means for them.
With Bill 30, the Alberta government has taken a step to help employers understand their role and obligations in ensuring a psychologically safe workplace by specifically requiring that they protect their workers from workplace violence and harassment. This includes new legislative definitions as well as outlining the responsibility of employers, supervisors and employees to prevent workplace violence and harassment.
It is important to note that compliance to the new legislation requires more than just ensuring you have a workplace violence and harassment policy in place.
The ACTivate HR team has provided a checklist to help you make sure you have the processes, policies and training in place to help your organization demonstrate its compliance with the new OHS Act.
Implement or Update Policies
If you don’t currently have policies in place, now is the time to create and implement them. If you already have workplace violence and respectful workplace policies, update them to specifically define bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. You will likely not just need to update one policy – look at any other policies that you have including safety policies as well as your code of conduct.
Everyone, supervisors and employees alike, need to be aware of the policies and programs you have in place to prevent and report physical and psychological violence. All employees also need to be aware of their responsibilities in preventing harassment and bullying as well as what resources are available to them if they experience this type of violence at work.
Train for Competence
Your leaders need to be competent to identify and respond to harassment, bullying and other forms of psychological violence. Employees need to know what constitutes bullying and harassment behaviour, how to recognize it, and how to report it.
Have an Assessment and Reporting Process
Don’t wait for a bullying or harassment incident to be reported – put in place psychological hazard assessment processes. As with physical injury reporting, harassment and bullying need to have a formal process for reporting the incident. However, given the sensitivities and stigma associated with mental health as well as complications that can arise depending on the people involved, a different process will likely be required. Employers need to ensure that these situations can be reported in a way that employees feel safe – often utilizing the human resources department or an outside company.
Have an Investigation Process
You will now be required to investigate and report on psychological injuries the same way you investigate physical injuries. If an employee indicates that they have been harassed or bullied – particularly if they have required time off, medication or psychological treatment – you are required to investigate fully and then correct or mitigate any issues you find. This will require you to have people in house who are trained and competent at conducting bullying and harassment investigations or an external party to help with these investigations.
Traditionally, those accountable for physical safety programs within an organization are different than those accountable for psychological safety. Occupational health and safety departments usually deal with the former and human resources departments with the latter. The new legislation will require these groups to integrate processes and work together when dealing with workplace safety. This will include adding harassment, bullying and other forms of psychological violence into hazard assessments, safety monitoring and reporting systems and corrective action implementation and tracking.
This article is the first of an 8 part series to help you with Bill 30 implementation and compliance. To see the next article in the series head to the ACTivate HR website.
The ACTivate HR team is happy to work with you in all of the six areas above. Their team can help you with updating your policies, communicating to employees, training your leaders as well as in conducting fulsome, unbiased investigations into any bullying or harassment complaints that are reported. Check out their services page for more information orcontact them talk to someone from their team.