It is not uncommon these days to see and hear in the media of instances where children and youths are exposed to bullying by their peers, sometimes with tragic consequences.
In the schoolyard, online in social media, in any number of social situations, they feel bullied and harassed and it may sometimes feel like there is nothing to be done about it, leading to loss of self-esteem, depression, and any number of terrible consequences.
However, it is not only confined to the schoolyard and not even to only children.
Last November WorkSafeBC brought new rules occupational health and safety rules into effect that will enforce regulations to try to reduce bullying in B.C. workplaces.
This year on Wednesday, Feb. 26, to raise awareness of annual anti-bullying, or Pink Shirt day, the Skills Centre and the Trail Chamber of Commerce are co-sponsoring a workshop on Workplace Anti-bullying at the Selkirk College campus in Trail.
“The Skills Centre held an event last year at Glenmerry School on Pink Shirt Day and we felt it was a definite success,” said Michele Cherot, business manager for the Skills Centre.
“But we also found that the focus of the day was almost exclusively on schoolyard bullying. While that is obviously an issue that requires attention, what we’ve seen is that schoolyard bullying moves into workplace bullying. The behaviour doesn’t change if you don’t deal with it.”
The one-day workshop will focus on being aware of what constitutes bullying in the workplace, the employer’s requirements under WorkSafeBC Bill 14, effective policies and procedures to address the issue in the workplace, and how to combat bullying by creating a respectful workplace.
“We know that with the changes to requirements for employers there are a lot of businesses that haven’t taken the time to develop a policy,” said Norm Casler, executive director of the Trail Chamber of Commerce.
“They could find themselves with an employee making a claim and if they don’t have any kind of policy in place they don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Casler likened the new legislation to the, now much more familiar, legislation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Sexual harassment has been on the radar for some time now,” he said. “Employers know that, if they allow that kind of behaviour in the workplace, it’s not just the employees who are held responsible, the employer is also accountable.”
Under the new legislation, bullying and harassment: “includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonable ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.”
“We thought that a workshop would be of value because it’s one thing to have a regulation but how do you build it into your workplace,” said Cherot. “People might have a policy in place but do they understand what it’s all about? It’s in the employer’s best interest to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to develop an effective policy and put it into practice.”
Casler pointed out that knowing the legislation and having a welcoming environment at your workplace just makes good business sense.
“This is about retaining good workers, making sure people are comfortable in their workplace,” he said. “It can be a very competitive market for good employees these days, if people feel harassed you’ll lose them.”
Cherot also said that there can be a definite economic bonus to having a grasp of the issue and good policies in place.
“People who feel bullied are more likely to take sick days and stress leave,” Cherot said. “That can mean down time for an organization, not to mention increased costs in employee benefits. Having a healthy workplace can lead to an overall healthier community.”
Anyone interested in more information on the Anti-Bullying workshop or to register can call the Skills Centre at (250) 368-6360 or email Gail Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.