Federal government introduces bill to address workplace harassment, violence

The federal government has introduced a new bill that would amend the Canada Labour Code to address harassment and sexual violence in federally regulated workplaces.

The bill proposes to make changes to existing provisions in the labour code to enact a single approach that covers all harassment and violence and expands the policies to cover parliamentary workplaces. The three-pronged approach seeks to prevent harassment from happening, respond to incidents effectively when they do happen and support victims. The proposed changes include the requirement that employers take measures to prevent and respond to harassment and support victims.

Read: 60% of Canadians report experiencing workplace harassment: survey

The government’s action comes on the heels of a report published last week, which summarized the findings of an online survey and a number of roundtables. It found 60 per cent of Canadians have experienced workplace harassment. In addition, 21 per cent of respondents have experienced violence and three per cent have dealt with sexual violence.

Of survey respondents who experienced sexual harassment, 94 per cent were women. It also found that Canadians with disabilities and members of a visible minority were more likely to be the targets of harassment.

Among respondents who had experienced an incident in the past two years, 42 per cent had experienced harassment, 12 per cent had experienced sexual harassment and 14 per cent had been the victims of violence. Within that group, men were more likely to have experienced harassment than women. Women were more likely to have experienced sexual harassment and violence.

Read: Sounding Board: What employers need to know about Bill 132

Last year, Ontario introduced Bill 132, which required employers to develop new training protocols and revisit existing violence and harassment policies before a Sept. 8, 2016, deadline.

The bill solidified the definition of workplace harassment, gave the Ministry of Labour the ability to order independent investigations and reporting at the expense of the employer and required companies to develop written programs that address harassment issues and review them annually. It also required employers to provide formalized training to employees.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents to the federal government’s survey said their workplace has a sexual harassment policy, but just 43 per cent had participated in training on it.

Do the survey findings around workplace harassment align with your experience? Is harassment that common or are the survey results a surprise and a wake-up call to take action? Have your say in this week’s online poll.

Last week’s poll asked whether participants would miss the Canada savings bond program. Most (71 per cent) respondents said they wouldn’t, since the program had long gone by the wayside given low interest rates and the availability of better options. About a third (29 per cent) said they would miss it, noting the program was straightforward and provided a safe and secure savings vehicle for employees.

Read: Are group TFSAs a suitable replacement for outgoing Canada savings bond program?