In line with Bill C65, effective January 1, 2021, all federally regulated workplaces are expected to put in place a program related to the prevention and addressing of harassment and violence in their organizations. While, for some organizations, this may only require revisions and additions to what you already have in place, for others, there are a number of steps that will need to be carried out. While this is only relevant under the Canada Labour Code at this time, provincially regulated workplaces may want to align their programs – both in terms of best practice and to stay ahead of related legislation that may be required in future.

As part of this new legislation, all federally regulated employers will need to:

  • Understand and indicate what workplace harassment and violence is as defined by the Canada Labour Code
  • Develop or revise your existing harassment and violence policy
  • Assess the risk of harassment and violence in your workplace
  • Provide training on your policy and procedure (and associated details) to your employees

As it’s important to get a clear understanding of the amount/nature of risk in your workplace, the first step should be to conduct a risk assessment. If you have one, this is, ideally, done with your OH&S representative or committee and should take into consideration the points below. If you don’t have a dedicated representative or committee, it’s still important that your assessment has employee involvement.

  • Nature of your industry, work, and work activities/the risk inherent in the type of work you do
  • Location, surrounding environment, and working conditions
  • How often situations lead to (or might lead to) harassment and/or violence
  • How severe the consequences for harassment and/or violence could be for employees
  • Any measures already in place

Once you’ve assessed risk factors, the next step is to do what you can to prevent or minimize the risk of workplace harassment and violence. Part of this includes developing and/or updating a workplace harassment and violence policy. While many organizations already have policies and procedures related to harassment, violence, and other forms of unacceptable conduct, it’s important to ensure the following points are outlined and addressed:

  • Your commitment to preventing, addressing, and protecting your employees against harassment & violence
  • Responsibilities of the employer, manager, and employee
  • Any factors that could contribute to harassment & violence specifically at your workplace, such as location, working conditions, clients, etc.
  • Training that you’ll provide on your program and procedures
  • What employees should do if they experience or witness harassment and/or violence at work, including who to contact
  • Informal and/or direct resolution options, followed by formal options (e.g. conciliation, mediation and/or investigation)
  • Your commitment to confidentiality and protection of privacy
  • Options and supports available to employees involved, and any applicable emergency procedures

In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss details related to training requirements, as well as the response procedures that employers should put in place as part of their policies.

Breaking it all down, the expected end goal is to conduct a workplace assessment, have and communicate a legislative- and workplace-aligned policy and procedure, and train your employees accordingly. More than just being required legislation, we believe this is an opportunity to take a step back, become aware, and truly understand the impact that harassment and violence has and may have in your workplace. This allows you to take the critical steps to not only provide meaningful support to your employees at all levels, but also prevent it from occurring in the first place.