Federally-regulated employers will wish to take note of the Federal government’s implementation of new Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations. These are intended to replace the violence prevention section of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
What does this mean for employers?
The new regulations broaden the definition of harassment and violence to include “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.” With this change, the government seeks to improve its previously fragmented scheme for addressing harassment, including sexual harassment, and sexual violence in the workplace.
Most of the changes involve mandatory training and the creation of policies to identify, handle and prevent occurrences of harassment and violence. Some of the requirements include:
- Providing harassment and violence prevention training to everyone in the workplace;
- Developing (jointly with a health and safety committee or representative) a prevention policy that outlines information on how the organization will address harassment and violence in their workplace;
- Following a new resolution process, which requires that employers respond to every notification of harassment or violence, and engage in ongoing communication after the occurrence;
- Providing guidance for how the employer should be informed of external dangers, such as family violence and stalking;
- Providing information to employees of available support services;
- Conducting workplace assessments at least every three years;
- Providing harassment and violence training at least every three years, including on techniques for prevention, de-escalation and response to occurrences;
- Restricting policy and workplace committees from participating in harassment or violence-related investigations; and
- Being responsible for former employee complaints up to three months after an employee leaves.
The new regulations were spurred by a survey which identified the “widespread nature of harassment and violence in the workplace, including sexual harassment and sexual violence.” In response, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence). The law is expected to take effect in 2019.