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What Employers Need to Know About Canada's Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation

Perhaps the most important thing for employers to understand about workplace violence and harassment legislation in Canada is that not one province in the country treats the topic as an isolated issue. Because of that, employers need to pay careful attention to make sure they're making the most informed, accurate decisions possible at all times.

In Ontario, for example, the Occupational Health & Safety Act (otherwise known as OHSA) was designed to outline roles and responsibilities of workplace parties as they relate to workplace violence and harassment. This includes not only the development and implementation of policies and programs, but also providing up-to-date information as well.


Canada's Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation: The Facts

In September of 2016, Bill 132 went into effect—otherwise known as the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act. It follows Bill 168, which was put in place to determine how harassment is to be dealt with as a specific health and safety issue in the workplace.

Just a few of the key definitions that OHSA puts forward include but are not limited to:

  • Workplace Violence: This is an exercise of physical force by a person against a worker and can include actions like an attempt to cause physical injury to the worker, or a statement or behavior that the worker could perceive as a threat.
  • Domestic Violence: This is a situation where a person who has a personal relationship with a worker tries to physically harm or threaten them at work. This can include such actions by a spouse, a former spouse, or even a family member.
  • Workplace Harassment: This involves engaging in conduct against a worker that is known to be unwelcome in nature. Obviously, this can include words and actions that are offensive, embarrassing, or even humiliating.
  • Workplace Sexual Harassment: This can involve unwelcome words or actions associated with sex, sexual orientation, or gender being lobbied at a worker, or making a sexual solicitation by a person in a position of power.

One of the reasons why workplace violence and harassment legislation in Canada is receiving so much discussion is due directly to changes brought forth by Bill 132. Specifically, employers are now required to implement a workplace violence and harassment policy that:

  • Includes measures and procedures that employees can use to report these types of activities.
  • Outlines specifically how information will be obtained during an investigation into the activities, including any corrective action that will occur.
  • Outlines how a worker who has experienced this type of harassment in the past will be informed of the results of the investigation.

Likewise, an employer may be asked at any given time by a health and safety inspector to conduct an investigation at their own expense—all by way of an unbiased third party.

Canada's Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation: Major Takeaways

Ultimately, what employers operating in Canada need to understand is that they must review and implement any legislative requirements and assess potential risks moving forward. This involves not only creating policies and procedures, but updating them on a regular basis.

More than that, all employees should be trained and addressed regarding any unwanted behaviors early in an effort to minimize the potential for workplace harassment in the first place.

Because there is always a risk of conducting a flawed or improper investigation, a third party may need to be brought in to handle everything related to the investigation so employers can remain objective—and not interfere with proceedings.

Employers must attempt to maintain objectivity and consider all evidence very, very carefully, and never assume anything that isn't backed up by facts. And, above all, be compassionate to both the victim and the alleged harasser.

Expand into the Great White North with an Experienced Partner

Contact us today if you'd like to learn more about what employers need to know about Canada's workplace violence and harassment legislation. Or, if you have questions about how Velocity Global’s International PEO (Professional Employer Organization) solution can help you expand into Canada (or one of the more than 185 countries in which we have capabilities) reach out to us to learn how our team can help ensure you do so compliantly.

Ready to get started? Let’s talk.

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