Bullying and sexual harassment policies to be law from June
Legislation to ensure employers create policies on workplace bullying and sexual harassment will come in to force at the start of next month, the labour minister said yesterday.
Jason Hayward added the addition of bullying and sexual harassment policies was “one of the major additions to the Employment Act 2000”.
He said employers had been given six months since the legislation was approved by Parliament to draft a “zero tolerance policy” for bullying and sexual harassment.
Staff must be given a copy of the statement, which must detail their recourse for alleged breaches of the policy.
Mr Hayward said the legislation would also combine ten tribunals and boards into a single Employment and Labour Relations Tribunal.
He added the one-stop shop would manage all employee complaints and was “a significant improvement on the current state of affairs”.
Mr Hayward said talks continued with unions on the issue of union decertification, which faced opposition when it was announced last year.
It was proposed that non-union members would get a vote on whether a workplace should retain union representation.
Mr Hayward said: “There was to be clarity around the decertification process. I have had ongoing meetings with unions regarding decertification.”
He added: “The ministry has made its position clear to the union and we are continuing to have discussions with the unions surrounding those points.”
Dwight Jackson, the general secretary of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress, said decertification was “still a matter of individual conversations with the respective unions”.
He added the BTUC had not decided if it would issue a joint statement on the matter, but might at a later stage.
Mike Charles, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said decertification was more a point of contention with other labour bodies.
He added: “We are just one body of people. In unions with different divisions it’s more of an issue – I know my colleagues in other unions are definitely against it.”
The BTUC backed the Bermuda Industrial Union and Bermuda Public Services Union when the two opposed the legalisation last year.
Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, said yesterday he would need to discuss the legislation further with colleagues before he commented.
The move for zero tolerance on sexual harassment was welcomed by Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Women's Resource Centre.
The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act will also boost prenatal care for workers, restrictions on probationary periods, and extend bereavement allowance to grandparents and grandchildren.
Mr Hayward said employers were required to help staff understand the new policies.
He added: “Any employer who contravenes this requirement will be liable to a civil penalty imposed by the Labour Relations Manager or the Employment and Labour Tribunal.
“Policies are an effective step to mitigate the occurrence of violence and harassment in the workplace.
“We must all work towards eradicating unacceptable behaviours, including bullying and sexual harassment from the world of work.
“These amendments are a start, but ultimately, it is our responsibility to treat everyone fairly, with respect and dignity.”
Mr Hayward said the ministry could also supply templates of the policies to employers who wanted copies.