Bill 30 Alberta: Is Your Company Ready?


Bill 30: “An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans” was passed into legislation December 15, 2017, and came into force January 1, 2018. Most of the changes will come into effect June 1, 2018. The new legislation makes changes to standards for Occupational Health and Safety as well as to Workers Compensation. In this article, I will discuss the changes to health and safety, specifically around the newly included concept of ‘harassment’ as well as discuss the range of resources a company requires to meet the standards around harassment.

  • •   employers
  • •   supervisors
  • •   workers
  • •   suppliers
  • •   service providers
  • •   owners
  • •   contractors
  • •   prime contractors
  • •   self-employed persons
  • •   temporary staffing agencies

Bill 30 now includes harassment as an organizational responsibility to manage whereas previously Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) only required the organization to address violence. This brings Alberta into line with other provinces and with legislation in other progressive countries. Although companies have been obligated under Human Rights laws to protect employees from harassment, this legislation brings such obligation into health and safety. The new OHS standards will look familiar to companies who have Non-Harassment and Respectful Workplace Policies. The difference, however, is that these are no longer provisions under a policy, but rather legal obligations. Although there are numerous changes, below are the new standards of interest to this discussion:

  • •   Employers are obligated to ensure that none of the employer’s workers are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site.
  • •   Supervisors have the obligation to ensure none of the workers under the supervisor’s supervision are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site.
  • •   Workers have the obligation to refrain from causing or participating in harassment or violence
  • •   Most workplaces and Prime Contractors will need to develop a joint Health and Safety Committee with worker representation.
  • •   The joint work site health and safety committee’s duties will include participating in identifying hazards, developing programs, making recommendations to the employer, inspecting the work site and participating in investigations.
  • •   Requirement to designate a health and safety representative

With harassment added to obligations, those noted in the bullets as well as health and safety committees will need to be familiar with and able to address harassment in the workplace.

In the legislation, harassment includes bullying as well as protected grounds harassment:

(q) “harassment” means any single incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, comment, bullying or action by a person that the person knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to a worker, or adversely affects the worker’s health and safety, and includes (i) conduct, comment, bullying or action because of race, religious beliefs, colour, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and (ii) a sexual solicitation or advance, but excludes any reasonable conduct of an employer or supervisor in respect of the management of workers or a work site;

It is interesting to note the definition of a hazard.

(s) “hazard” means a situation, condition or thing that may be dangerous to health and safety.” Therefore, in our opinion, a work environment where bullying/harassment occur should be considered a workplace hazard.

Is your company ready to address the serious issues of harassment and bullying? The Calgary Consortium for Civility, Respect, and Dignity at Work is a group of professionals who provide a wide range of services in this area. Together, we have developed a model of service interventions that will address the requirements of Bill 30 and assist a company to develop a culture of respect. While not every service will require outside assistance, many will as often dealing with issues is difficult for internal resources. Previous involvement, knowing pieces of information, and having dealt with some of the parties can create a conflict of interest situation. Further, not every organization has every resource.

The process/model begins with prevention activities.

Preventing: Does your company:

  • •   Have an updated occupational health and safety policy that includes harassment and bullying
  • •   Have a Respectful Workplace Policy
  • •   Provide training on Occupational Health and Safety obligations with regards to bullying and harassment
  • •   Provide training and discussion on Psychological Safety in the workplace
  • •   Create health and safety and/or respect committees and provide the designates required by the legislation
  • •   Provide opportunities for social dialogue around bullying, harassment, and psychological safety, keeping the topic current and in the minds of workers
  • •   Provide leadership training and coaching on the role of supervisors, managers, and other leaders in creating a culture of psychological safety and respect
  • •   Have an opportunity to use a third party to assess existing conflict management systems and their impact on bully and harassment and provide recommendations for proactive conflict management
  • •   Provide training to all levels on conflict resolution
  • •   Select supervisors and leaders on the basis of emotional and social intelligence using reliable and valid tools

Monitoring: Does your company:

  • •   Provide a whistle blower process
  • •   Provide employee surveys that give feedback on psychological safety
  • •   Have a committee that can oversee and review results of whistle blower and employee survey outcomes
  • •   Give leadership the opportunity to see and discuss such results
  • •   Provide an Independent Ombudsman Office to enable employees to anonymously and confidentially call out to a third party to discuss concerns around managing conflict or explore bullying and harassment issues and who supplies annual or semi-annual reporting to indicate systemic issues around bullying and harassment

Responding: Does your company provide:

  • •   Skilled support to those who have experienced or witnessed bullying/harassment
  • •   Assessment and intervention for those who have engaged in bullying and harassment
  • •   Leadership coaching and support to develop interpersonally appropriate leadership and management styles
  • •   Skilled HR professionals with training in the management of bullying and harassment
  • •   Third party investigation, report and recommendation by investigators trained in trauma interviewing and investigation

Repairing: Does your company provide:

  • •   Specialized treatment professionals for those who have experienced/witnessed bullying/harassment
  • •   Perpetrator coaching with professionals skilled in the area of abrasive management
  • •   Debriefing and skill building for teams in conflict and harassment situations
  • •   Restorative facilitation and mediation services for repairing interpersonal relationships
  • •   Other means of personal repair, e.g., access to retreats and workshops, working with horses

The cost of bullying and harassment can be substantial to organizations . Studies show that when a company provides a full range of interventions and resources, the likelihood of negative workplace behavior is reduced and damage to individuals when incidents do occur is minimized.

The Calgary Consortium can assist with developing a culture of respect, dignity, and safety. The members include:

  • •   Linda Crockett, MSW, RSW, Executive Director Alberta Bullying Research, Resources and Recovery Centre (ABRC): expert in bullying resources, training, treatment, , coaching, advocating and whistle blower line provision (www.abrc.ca 1-780-965-7480).
  • •   Pat Ferris and Janus Associates Psychological Services, Ph.D., Partner, Janus Associates Psychological Services: experts in workplace bullying and harassment policy development, training, coaching, treatment and testing (www.janusassociates.ca 1-403-269-9600).
  • •   Marlene Hope: expert in trauma-informed interviewing techniques and healing through equine (horse) facilitated learning:(Licensed Investigator through the Government of Alberta – Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, Mediator, Certificate in Conflict Resolution, Equine Assisted Therapy Certificate, Human Resource Management Certificate, Senior Police Management Certificate (www.masadaassociates.com 1-587-578-1545).
  • •   Michelle Phaneuf: P. Eng., Mediator, Ombudsman: expert in mediation, facilitation, and conflict resolution training (www.workplacefairnesswest.ca 1-403-243-0147).

Together, we can make Alberta workplaces a positive experience and example to all.

1 https://www.alberta.ca/ohs-changes.aspx

2 Summarized from Denton’s Newsletter

3 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244015589997, http://www.workplacebullying.org/costs/ Giga, Hoel, Lewis, (2008). The costs of workplace bullying. Report and review for the Dignity at Work Partnership, available from http://www.workplacebullying.org/costs/ The financial burden of psychosocial workplace aggression: A systematic review of cost-of-illness studies available from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02678373.2017.1380726

4 Ferris, Deakin, Mathieson, (2018). Workplace bullying policy effectiveness. In press.

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