Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2021

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 22 of 47 23 from legal protections and ensure that "they have the same rights and protection as any other worker, that there's no exploitation and abuse, that they make fair wages and we grow the economy at the same time. I'm looking forward to economic recovery, so that we could implement many of the changes." Domestic violence and IPV According to the province's statistics, in 2018, almost one in three women (32 per cent) and just over one in eight men (13 per cent) aged 15 and over felt unsafe or uncomfortable as a result of unwanted sexual behaviour they experienced. Domestic violence (DV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) are a huge concern for women — it is the most common kind of violence experienced by women (45 per cent of all females aged 15 to 89). Furthermore, women in rural settings and Indigenous women experience higher rates of domestic violence. "We've seen many workers who are forced to go to work because they can't afford to take time off although they are survivors of domestic abuse and sexual abuse," says Bains. "We recognized early FAIR WAGES COMMISSION Source: B.C. government on that they need support, because ending violence, supporting safety and creating security are central to our government and the work that we do." Indeed, supporting workers can make a difference to survivors of DV and IPV. "We all know that when people have support and job security, they're much more likely to leave an abusive situation," says Bains. In 2019, says Bains, the ministry made changes to support modern workplaces, including providing job-protected leave for those people who are facing domestic and sexual violence. In 2020, the ministry brought in up to five days of paid leave each year for these workers. "I sat through many of those consultative sessions, and you heard stories and it was moving. It made me even more committed to making sure that we support those workers who are facing domestic and sexual violence, and so in addition to those five paid days, we now have an additional 15 weeks of unpaid job protected leave," says Bains. Workplace bullying & harassment Bains has been an activist in the matter for years, saying it has been his priority as minister to create workplaces that are free from violence and harassment. "I firmly believe, going back to my working days, that every worker deserves to go to work and [be] work free of harassment, intimidation and bullying from anybody at a workplace," says Bains. "Workplace bullying and harassment can take many forms, including verbal aggression, personal attacks, and other intimidating or humiliating behaviours." Workplace harassment can have a far-reaching impact on workers' health and safety and can lead to absenteeism, lost productivity and even depression and anxiety. It's a lose-lose situation for the worker and the employer. "It's an employer's responsibility to make sure that workplaces are free of harassment and intimidation and bullying," says Bains. He spotlights the work that WorkSafeBC has been doing with employers in these cases: It is reaching out to help investigate and provide help to the employer and workers to manage those situations. "We believe that every employee, every citizen of this province, deserves to live a life that is free of discrimination, whether personal, individual or systemic. That's why we established the Human Rights Commission very early on during our mandate as a government," says Bains. This is especially important as during COVID-19 there's a growing awareness of mental health, and workers' mental health specifically. "Our government is committed to making sure that we deal with mental health and addiction in society… We are the only jurisdiction in Canada that has a standalone ministry to deal with mental health and addiction," says Bains. He also points out that WorkSafeBC has a team that is dedicated to dealing with mental health and addiction. "This past year has been very difficult for everyone, including businesses, working people and the community. As a government, our focus has been to put people first to ensure that their health and safety is the number one priority in everything that we do," says Bains, "because we believe that healthy workplaces and a healthy population will lead us to economic recovery." The Fair Wages Commission was established in October 2017 Danielle van Jaarsveld, professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Sauder School of Business, has been chairwoman of the commission since October 2018 The goal of the independent commission is to advise government on how to raise minimum wages in a sustainable and measured way The first report was delivered to the Ministry of Labour in early 2018 with recommendations about the timing of wage increases The second report was released in April 2018, and it focused on wages increases for alternate minimum wage earners B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains (photo credit: Don Craig / Government of BC)

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