The effect of COVID-19 policies on violence, bullying and harassment in the BC service sector

April 2022: A multidisciplinary team of researchers from PWHS and the Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity (CGSHE) received funding from CIHR for a mixed-methods study that will critically assess the effect of COVID-19 policies on violence, bullying and harassment in the food and beverage service sector in BC.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many work-related inequities, with essential workers having to work at considerable risk in environments where there is COVID-19 exposure. In BC, the restaurant and hospitality sectors remained open throughout most of the pandemic with reduced hours, masking and restricted capacity. In August 2021, by order of the Provincial Health Officer, patrons of licensed restaurants, pubs and other establishments were required to show proof of vaccination with a first dose by September 13 and a second by October 24. Businesses were required to check for vaccination status and deny services to those not meeting this requirement. Women, racialized persons and youth are overrepresented in the accommodation and food service sector and in lower paying positions and are at high risk of harassment and violence at work. Workers are often precariously employed and are at a power disadvantage with employers and customers. Growing evidence suggests that COVID-19 working conditions, including the requirement to enforce COVID-19 workplace safety protocols, puts these workers at a greater risk for harassment and violence as well consequent negative physical and mental health outcomes.

This project is a mixed-method study that has three aims:

  1. First, it will conduct key informant interviews in the restaurant and hospitality sector to understand the experience of violence and harassment working under COVID-19 restrictions.
  2. Second, a survey of restaurant and hospitality workers from the Metro Vancouver and Central Okanagan regions who have experienced violence or harassment will be conducted to understand the broader contexts and the determinants and outcomes of their experience.
  3. Third, facilitated work will be conducted with community-based organizations, employer and worker associations, and WorkSafeBC to develop recommendations and guidelines to prevent and mitigate harassment and violence in the workplace due to public health measures.

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