January 29th, 2020

Workplace bullying is a mental health issue

HALIFAX-- The NDP is renewing its call for legislation to protect workers from bullying and psychological harassment. The current Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) rules exempt bullying, harassment, and psychological violence. While employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace for workers’ physical health, they don’t have the same obligation when it comes to mental health.

“In the past few months, we have heard many stories from workers who have been targeted to the point of sickness,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “Employers have a responsibility to provide safe and healthy environments for workers. That should mean safe physically and psychologically; but our current laws allow the opposite to happen.”

In October 2019, the NDP introduced legislation that would add bullying and psychological harassment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Liberals said they would work with the NDP on this issue but have not passed the bill.

“When you work in a toxic environment that condones abusive behaviour, it takes a toll on your emotional and psychological health,” said Annette MacDonald Harpell, who was bullied in her workplace in Antigonish and fired after raising the issue with her employer. “I felt betrayed, desperate and hopeless. I reached out to OH&S thinking they could help me, only to find out that workplace bullying and psychological harassment are not covered under the existing Act.”

Nova Scotia is the only province that does not include psychological harassment under OH&S rules.