When it comes to workplace violence and prevention, the federal government has been playing catch up with the provinces. Starting in 2017, the feds have been working on amendments to the Canada Labour Code (CLC) to more fully address workplace violence and harassment. While Bill-65 – snappily named An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 – establishing the amendments was passed in 2018, the changes had not come into effect nor had a date for their coming into effect been announced. New regulations were announced on June 24, 2020, which provide employers with more details regarding what will be required of them and setting out an effective date of January 1, 2021, for the changes. There are also requirements that employers need to meet before January 1, 2021. More details can be found on the government site here.
Canada Labour Code Amendments
The CLC amendments established by Bill-65 include the following new definition of harassment and violence:
“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.”
This definition combines the existing definitions of violence and sexual harassment. It also incorporates “psychological injury or illness” making explicit the employer’s obligation to protect workers from psychological, and not just physical, harm.
The amendments also set out specific requirements regarding:
- Workplace harassment and violence prevention policies
- Workplace harassment and violence prevention training
- Investigation of complaints
- Employer obligations with respect to the resolution of incidents of workplace harassment and violence
- Who can investigate complaints and how an investigator must be selected
- Employer obligations to conduct a workplace risk assessment and to incorporate any findings into the workplace harassment and violence prevention program
On June 24, 2020, the federal Minister of Labour published the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations under the CLC, which provide further specifics to the amendments. You can read the federal government’s news release here and the full text of the regulations here, but here are few highlights:
- Specifics on what a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy must contain
- That employers must provide their employees with information regarding what medical, psychological or other support services that are available to employees within their geographical area
- The requirement that annual reports regarding workplace harassment and violence be made to the Minister, including details of the number and types of incidents
What’s a Federally Regulated Workplace?
These changes apply only to federally regulated workplaces – if you as a business owner are confused if this is you it probably isn’t – most industries are provincially regulated. Federally regulated industries are determined by the Constitution and include:
- Air travel
- Railway and road transportation that goes between provinces
- Radio and TV
- Federal crown corporations
- Grain elevators, feed and seed mills, feed warehouses and grain-seed cleaning plants (of course)
The feds estimate that the implementation of these changes will cost federally regulated employers $587 million over 10 years but maintain that it is well worth it due to the expected economic benefits, which they list as including increased productivity and a decrease in absenteeism, job burnout, disability payments, lost work time and litigation costs.
If you have questions about the changes to the CLC and the impact on your federally regulated workplace, get in touch to set up a consultation.