“We’re entering a new era with new expectations. And company leaders must be transparent about expectations and tolerance. This is the first step toward developing a healthy workplace where everyone can feel safe.”
— Rod Buckingham
How should my company be preparing for the requirements of Bill C-65?
A: “It begins at the top,” says Rod Buckingham, the president and founder of Buckingham Inc. “CEOs and human resources directors of federally regulated Canadian businesses must work together to develop a comprehensive code of conduct on how to handle disputes in the workplace. And it must be done proactively, not reactively. The law is already in place, which is why we’re encouraging companies to develop and implement these policies and procedures as quickly as possible. Subsequently, they must be communicated to management and staff, and all of the requisite training must be made available. By being proactive, companies can effectively manage disputes before they become problematic.”
David Rudderham and Darren Wilcox, two of the lead investigators for Buckingham Inc., share the four principles for effectively and efficiently managing workplace disputes.
1. Develop written procedures that ensure all workplace complaints are handled in a formal and consistent way.
Previously, it was standard for employers to address workplace conflict and harassment informally. Although dispute resolutions can be handled informally, the complaint process must be formalized and predictable — it must follow a set procedure. If the complaint process is not formalized, resolutions can become unclear and may resurface at a later date, leading complainants to believe they were not taken seriously.
2. Assure employees that the intent of the new procedures is to ensure a healthy workplace environment for everyone.
The investigation and resolution of a harassment complaint is, by design, a restorative process. Although there may be occasions when a determination is made and a discipline directed, the focus of the process is to ensure that the workplace environment improves.
3. Create a culture in which management makes it clear that all employees have a right to a harassment-free environment.
It’s important for employees to understand that management will not tolerate any form of harassment, and that all harassment will be stopped, investigated and resolved in a timely manner.
4. Be proactive.
Establish, implement and communicate your company’s policies and procedures before harassment becomes a problem.
- Investigations should be conducted in a confidential and timely manner so that the issues can be resolved as soon as possible.
- Interviews should be conducted in an open, non-threatening way with the proprietary system of “interest-based cognitive interviews.”
- The interviews should be recorded and provided back to the respective parties for review. Time should be given to allow all parties to add information and/or clarify errors or omissions.
- All parties should be treated with respect and courtesy at all times, utilizing the five principles of Procedural Fairness:
- Right to representation
- Neutral decision maker
- Impartial investigators
- Preliminary report provided to the parties so they understand the full case
- Right to rebut