Alert: BC to Release Guidelines on Domestic Violence in the Workplace

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According to the Vancouver Sun, BC is set to become the second province in Canada (after Ontario) to address domestic violence in the workplace. BC OHS law already requires employers to minimize the risk of violence to workers on the job.

The paper reported that WorkSafeBC has been developing a handbook and online training resource for employers for more than a year, but the information became public after a 24-year-old newspaper worker died at her desk when her estranged husband allegedly came into the office and attacked her with an axe. A male worker who tried to save her was also injured in the incident.

Roberta Ellis, WorkSafeBC senior vice-president of corporate affairs, said the proposed guidelines and training, which should be finalized this fall, are designed to:

  • Make employers aware of their legal obligations around violence prevention on the job
  • Help employers recognize the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse and better understand how to talk about it with a worker in a safe and supportive manner.

The guidelines are the result of a special review panel on domestic violence convened by the chief coroner last spring. Among the panel’s recommendations, it urged work safety officials to develop a model that employers could use to enhance worker safety and protection from the threat of domestic violence on the job.

We’ll stay on top of these developments and let you know when WorkSafeBC releases the proposed guidelines, which will presumably be open for public comment.

ON Requirements

BC is apparently borrowing some of Ontario’s guidance materials for its guidelines. Ontario included a domestic violence provision in its workplace violence and harassment requirements, which took effect last summer. Employers in that province must take reasonable precautions to protect workers if they become aware, or should reasonably be aware, that domestic violence that would likely expose a worker to physical injury may occur in the workplace.

Although Ontario’s law doesn’t spell out the specific precautions employers should take, a logical first step would be to implement a domestic violence policy. (Click here for a model policy.)

Other Jurisdictions

With BC following on Ontario’s heels on the issue of domestic violence in the workplace, it may be only a matter of time before other jurisdictions jump on the bandwagon. So even if your company isn’t located in these two jurisdictions, it’s still a good idea to take steps to address domestic violence in your workplace now.