Protecting hospitality workers during current labour shortage

Employers must support workers during ongoing labour shortage that often leads to longer shifts, less supervision, and more responsibilities. 

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Due to recent staff shortages, workers are finding themselves in situations they may not have experienced in the past. The labour shortage means that many hospitality workers are working longer hours, with less supervision and more responsibilities.

I recently spoke with Tim Pryde, an occupational health and safety consultant at WorkSafeBC who supports the tourism and hospitality industries. “We have been seeing that less experienced workers are handling some situations that they may not be ready for,” says Tim. “At times, there’s not as much supervision as needed.”

Not only can this increase workers’ stress levels, but it may also lead to risky situations, particularly if staff don’t know how to handle bullying, harassment, or situations of violence in the workplace.

Prevent workplace bullying and harassment and situations of violence

Tim reminds employers about their responsibility to have a violence prevention program, which can be developed using WorkSafeBC’s guide.

“A violence prevention program is required in any workplace where there’s a risk of injury to workers from violence,” Tim says. “Especially in a hospitality setting — for example, a restaurant or a bar where customers might be consuming alcohol — employers have to do a risk assessment. And then, if they identify that there is a risk of violence, they have to establish policies and procedures to eliminate or minimize the risk to workers. And they have to provide training on those policies and procedures.”

Tim explains that bullying and harassment programs provide education to workers, as well as policies and procedures for addressing intimidating or humiliating behaviour in the workplace. Bullying and harassment can take many forms, including verbal aggression or insults, calling someone derogatory names, harmful hazing or initiation practices, vandalizing personal belongings, and spreading malicious rumours.

If workplace bullying and harassment is not addressed, it can lead to lost productivity, anxiety, and depression. Tim says employers need to provide a process for workers to report bullying and harassment. There needs to be an investigation procedure, and incidents must be addressed in a way to prevent future bullying.

You can learn more on WorkSafeBC’s Bullying and harassment webpage.

Support workers’ mental health

What should you do if you notice a worker is struggling under new or increased pressures?

Help is available at B.C.’s Hub for Workplace Mental Health, where you’ll learn how employers can recognize changes in workers’ behaviour. The goal is to support workers regardless of whether a mental health challenge is suspected or not.

“In particular, when these changes affect performance, there is a duty for the employer to inquire about whether or not the changes in performance could be related to a health concern,” reads a page on employers’ obligations.

It’s not always easy to start this conversation — but coming from a place of compassion helps.

Recently, I saw these four training courses offered through go2HR, free for B.C.’s tourism industry. They are:

  • Stress at the workplace
  • Dealing with difficult customers
  • Hazard identification and investigation
  • Violence prevention in the workplace

In addition, go2HR is building a program called Safer Spaces: Creating Sexual Harassment Free Workplaces in BC’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry. The first course, aimed at employers and supervisors, is available now; a course for workers will available next spring.

Thank you to Tim for speaking with me.

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