Legal News

2019 New Year’s resolutions for employers

A new year means renewed energy to tackle those pesky workplace projects which you may have let slide last year.  Capitalizing on this opportunity will help you avoid the headache of workplace legal issues down the line.  Here are some of our recommended employer New Year’s resolutions for 2019:

1. Review and update employee handbooks and policies

When was the last time you reviewed your workplace policies? Many important changes in the law took effect for BC employers in 2018, including updates to maternity leave and parental leave entitlements, and a new minimum wage rate.  And in case you missed it, possession and consumption of recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada.  These are just some of the reasons why 2019 is a great time for employers to review their workplace policies and bring them up to date with recent legal changes.

2. Conduct workplace harassment training

Have you conducted bullying and harassment training since the WorkSafe BC policy came into effect in 2013?  Now’s the time to change that.  The recent #MeToo movement has brought the issue of harassment to the forefront for many employees, and employers must be proactive in ensuring workplaces free from bullying, harassment and discrimination.  Annual training is an excellent way to remind employees of your policies and reporting procedures, and of their role in preventing and reporting bullying and harassment in the workplace.

3. Commit to a renewed focus on mental health support in the workplace

Discrimination based on mental disability, and failure to properly accommodate a mental disability, remain common complaints at the BC Human Rights Tribunal.  We are also seeing more legislation aimed at tackling mental health issues in the workplace.  For example, amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act took effect in 2018 making it easier for workers in certain occupations to make a claim of mental disorder under the Act.  Similarly, the federal government has been studying “right to disconnect” legislation, including consideration of how work-related contact during non-working hours can act as a source of stress for employees. Now is a good time for employers to commit resources to help employees manage workplace stress and to train supervisors and human resource managers to identify and properly manage mental health accommodation requests.

4.  Conduct a privacy audit

Are you confident your organization is in compliance with privacy legislation requirements regarding the collection, use, disclosure, retention and protection of employee personal information? It is crucial your organization develop a privacy policy, and designate a privacy officer, to ensure compliance with this legislation. 2018 had its fair share of data breach headlines, but a data breach is not only a public relations nightmare. It also carries hefty legal consequences.  Federal employers are now also subject to onerous privacy breach response requirements which were implemented under PIPEDA in late 2018.  Now is a great time for employers to resolve to get their houses in order with respect to privacy and personal information.

While we often make personal resolutions that get lost early in the new year, an employer’s commitment to these resolutions should set it up for a successful 2019 the whole year through.  Your legal obligations to your employees never rest, so take the opportunity now to start your year off right.

Happy New Year!