On June 24, 2020, the federal government announced that the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations will come into effect on January 1, 2021. This new Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention policy will modify the existing rules regarding workplace harassment and violence for federally regulated employers. Federally-regulated employers are “Canada-wide industries” such as banks, airlines, railways and telecommunications systems.

The current system to deal with workplace violence and harassment is quite fragmented, with workplace violence being covered under the occupational health and safety provisions, while sexual harassment was dealt with under the labour standards provisions and did not apply to employees in the federally regulated public sector. Workplace harassment that did not fall under the definition of sexual harassment was not dealt with at all.

The new regulations create one regime for both workplace violence and harassment under Part II of the Code which applies to both the federally regulated private and public sectors.

Once the regulations come into force, employers must:

  • Prepare workplace harassment and violence prevention policy working jointly with a policy committee, the workplace committee, or the health and safety representative;
  • Conduct a risk assessment of workplace harassment and violence and develop preventive measures to mitigate the risks;
  • Inform and train employees, and participate in training themselves;
  • Respond to reports of harassment or violence in the workplace within seven days;
  • Keep records of every incident of harassment and violence in the workplace and report annually to the Labour Program;
  • Implement corrective measures in response to the investigation report of an investigator to prevent future occurrences of harassment and violence;
  • Make available to employees information respecting the medical, psychological or other support services that are available in their area.

The regulations outline the essential elements of a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy, as well as the procedures that must be put in place to respond to incidents of harassment and violence. Some of these essential elements include:

  • Confidentiality of all parties involved, including witnesses, throughout the investigation;
  • Protection for employees victimized by a third party (i.e. not a fellow worker);
  • The qualifications of a competent person to investigate and provide recommendations;
  • Employer obligations to implement corrective measures in response to the investigation report of a competent person; and
  • The roles of the employer, policy committee, workplace committee, and health and safety representative.

Another important change is that harassment will now be defined for the purposes of the Canada Labour Code. Workplace harassment and violence is defined as 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, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.

Given the number of changes to the Canada Labour Code and the introduction of required elements for policies and procedures, it is important to create new policies or revise existing ones to ensure compliance with the Act before January 1, 2021.

Whitten & Lublin, Employment Lawyers is one of Canada’s Premier Workplace Law Firms. If you would like assistance with creating or revising a workplace harassment and violence policy for your organization, please contact us online or by phone at 416-640-2667.

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