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Canada Labour Code Changes: Violence and Harassment In The Workplace

With all that has happened in 2020, it can be easy to forget changes introduced earlier in the year. This article outlines the earlier amendments to the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”), which came into force on January 1, 2021.

This article also covers the newly introduced government policy document to assist in interpreting the CLC amendments.

Regulation on Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention (Regulations)

In June 2020, the Canadian government introduced new amendments to the CLC and Regulations to ensure that employers prevent violence and harassment in the workplace for federally regulated workplaces. These long-awaited regulations were first contemplated when Bill C-65 was passed in October 2018.

These Regulations are welcome as they add clarity by creating one regime for both violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Previously, sexual harassment was covered under the Part III of the CLC, covering labour standards, while workplace violence was covered under the Part II, the Occupational Health and Safety provisions of the CLC. This created discrepancies among the application of the respective regimes. For instance, the sexual harassment regime would apply to federally regulated public sector, but not to the federally regulated private sector.

The new Regulations apply to all federally regulated employers covered under Part II of the CLC, which includes parliamentary workers.

Overview of New Employer Obligations

With the passage of Bill C-65, the CLC adopted a broader definition for violence and harassment in the workplace to include “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.”

Although a broader definition, it is important to maintain a distinction between workplace harassment and violence and regular workplace conflict. For instance, actions that likely would not fit under this definition include a supervisor taking reasonable disciplinary action in good faith, placing an employee on a performance improvement plan, and denying time off.

With the introduction of the Regulations, there are increased obligations for employers such as:

  • Conducting workplace assessments jointly with an “applicable partner” (a defined term that changes depending on the size of the workplace but may be a health and safety representative, workplace committee, or policy committee)
  • Preparing a Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy with an applicable partner that includes prescribed elements
  • Developing emergency procedures to respond to a threat of harassment or violence
  • Develop and provide appropriate training to all employees (with retraining to occur every 3 years)
  • Responsibility for providing employees with information on support services in their area (e.g. medical or psychological services)
  • Implementing a resolution process with procedural requirements and timelines to respond to complaints of workplace harassment and violence (as set out in the Regulations)
  • Follow record-keeping protocols and reporting obligations

To assist federally regulated employers and employees comprehend all of these changes, the federal government published a policy document on November 30, 2020 titled Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention (HVP) – 943-1-IPG-104. This lengthy but practical document provides an overview of the incoming changes to the CLC and obligations for employers and employees.

Make sure to review the new changes and the government’s policy documents to ensure your organization is compliant.

Contact Us 

If you are an employer and need assistance navigating these new legislative changes, or an employee who is experiencing violence or harassment in the workplace, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.