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On January 1, 2021 new regulations concerning harassment and violence in the workplace came into effect as part of the Canada Labour Code. These regulations primarily impact employees who are in the federally regulated sector and may also impact any person working with and close to federally regulated employers.

Legislation circle

The new regulations are very far-reaching and include a basic definition of what harassment and violence in the workplace is, and the steps that employers must take to be compliant with the new regulations.

The new regulations define harassment and violence in the workplace 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.”

Some of the other key changes include:

  • The requirement to develop a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy.
  • Performing a mandatory workplace assessment to identify risk which may contribute to harassment and violence in the workplace.
  • Creating a complaint resolution process that includes a negotiated resolution.
  • Establishing timeframes and process for resolution of complaints. All parties must make efforts to resolve any complaint within 45 days – if a negotiated resolution is not possible, then an investigation must be performed.
  • Any investigation must be handled by qualified and trained individuals. All parties must agree on which investigator shall be used or one will be selected by the Canada Labour Board.
  • Stronger emphasis on the confidentiality of all parties involved.
  • The employer must provide and document support measures that are available to employees, including any company provided resources, external services providers, and any legislated leaves that employees may be entitled to.
  • Records of any incident and subsequent investigation or resolution must be kept for 10 years following the incident.
  • Employer must provide for training on the new policy by January 1, 2022 to all employees, and within 3 months of new employees joining the organization.
  • The policy and procedures are to be updated every 3 years.

The above list is not a comprehensive list of all changes and there is still much to learn from the interpretation of the new regulations. But these new regulations are some of the strictest and more prescriptive requirements ever set out in law and will likely have a ripple effect on various provincial legislations which are likely to be updated in the coming months and years to meet or exceed these new federal regulations.

For organizations this is an opportunity to re-invest in the safety of the workplace and put systems and procedures in place that would exceed the new federal requirements.

Your Engaged HR assignment: Dust off that harassment policy and make sure it meets the key requirements of this new regulation and perform a company-wide assessment that would identify areas where you can create a more inviting, inclusive, and safer workplace.

As always, we are here to help with this and any other HR related challenges and opportunities that you wish to pursue.

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