In 2018, Bill C-65 received royal assent—as a result, Part II of the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”) was set to be amended to introduce laws surrounding workplace harassment and violence. Recently, the federal government announced the CLC amendments will come into force on January 1, 2021.
As federal employers will need to be more proactive about workplace harassment and violence, they should ensure their policies and procedures are properly updated to reflect the changes.
What are the Changes?
Bill C-65 introduces a definition for workplace harassment, and combines it with the definition for violence:
harassment and violence means 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.
Currently, federally regulated employers are required to have a workplace policy and procedures regarding harassment and violence. The CLC amendments clarify and outline essential elements of what must be included in workplace harassment and violence policies and procedures going forward.
The new elements to be included in these policies have been identified as:
- A mission statement from the employer regarding prevention of workplace harassment and violence;
- A description of the roles of the employer, employees, and others in relation to workplace harassment and violence;
- A description of risk factors that contribute to workplace harassment and violence;
- A summary of the training to be provided regarding workplace harassment and violence;
- A summary of the resolution process which includes what procedure to follow when submitting a complaint, and to whom the complaint is to be made to;
- The reasons that would cause a review and update of the workplace assessment of risk factors;
- A summary of emergency procedures in the event that an incident of workplace harassment or violence puts an employee’s health and safety in immediate danger or creates a threat of such an occurrence;
- A description of how the employer intends to protect employee privacy;
- A description of available recourse for an affected employee;
- A description of support measures available to employees; and
- The name of the person designated to receive complaints.
Additionally, the new regulations provide details on how workplace harassment and violence training must be implemented and how the resolution and investigation process must be carried out by the employer in the event of an employee complaint. Furthermore, employers are provided details on what support services, both medical and psychological, must be made available to employees, who can investigate complaints, and annual reporting requirements to the Ministry of Labour.
Who Is Affected by the Changes?
The Canada Labour Code only relates to federally regulated employers and employees. Provincially regulated employers are unaffected by these changes, and those in Ontario are instead required to adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Federal employers should ensure they are complying with the federal legislation and regulations, rather than the provincial legislation.
How do these Changes Affect Employers?
Federally regulated employers must be aware of and comply with the new obligations, and should prepare themselves to be ready by the new year. If not general offenses can see the employer liable for a fine of not more than $1,000,000 and/or an imprisonment term of not more than two (2) years for an indictable conviction, or a fine of not more than $100,000 for a summary conviction. Summary conviction fine limits increase to $1,000,000 where death or injury, or the risk of death or injury, is involved.
As such, employers should ensure they steps to implement timely and necessary changes to their policy and procedures, as they risk significant fines and even imprisonment otherwise.
Considering the risks, federally regulated employers should consult with a legal professional to ensure their policies and procedures are properly updated.
If you are an employer seeking to update your policies and procedures to be legally compliant, or an employee who wishes to know more about your rights, our team of experienced legal professionals at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to assist.
If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support, visit our CLO program page for our strategic solutions.
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