So far, the year 2020 has been like a roller coaster ride. The highs and lows, dips and turns have resulted in a myriad of changes in our day to day routines both in our personal and work lives.

Amidst the changes that are occurring in the world and our workplaces, the long awaited Regulations to the Bill C-65 amendments to the Canada Labour Code regarding workplace harassment and violence were published on June 24, 2020. The Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations, SOR/2020-130, ("the Regulations") come into force on January 1, 2021.

What does this mean for federally-regulated employers?

A general duty requirement exists under Part II of the Canada Labour Code ("Code") requiring all federally regulated employers to ensure that the health and safety at work of every person employed by them is protected. Harassment and violence are potential occupational hazards that must be identified and assessed; and steps must be taken to mitigate and prevent the risk of these hazards in the workplace.

Employers will be required to implement a workplace harassment and violence prevention program that meets the legal requirements of the Regulations. In cases where employers already have a policy and program in place, the employers will be required to review current practices for the prevention of workplace harassment and violence to ensure the elements of their program meet the new regulatory standards. Any new or revised program or policy must be communicated to employees so that they are not only aware, but knowledgeable in the employer's requirements for the prevention of harassment and violence in the workplace.

What are the new requirements?

The Regulations outline the essential elements of a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy. These elements include, but are not limited to:

  • A mission statement regarding the prevention of harassment and violence in the workplace and the employer's commitment to prevention
  • Identification and assessment of the risk factors both internal and external to the workplace that may contribute to violence at the workplace
  • Description of the training that will be provided to employees
  • Description of the resolution process including negotiated resolution, conciliation or investigation
  • Explanation of how privacy of individuals will be protected for those involved in an occurrence of violence or harassment or involved in the resolution process
  • Summary of the support measures for employees who may be a victim of or witness to violence and/or harassment at the workplace

What should an employer consider when identifying and assessing risk factors to violence and harassment at the workplace?

The identification of risks that may affect the workplace, including:

  • The culture, conditions, activities and organizational structure of the workplace;
  • Circumstances external to the workplace such as domestic violence that may enter onto the workplace premises and result in harassment and violence;
  • Any reports, records and other information relating to harassment and violence in the workplace. This would take into account any past history of violence and harassment;
  • The physical design of the workplace; this may include a review of the layout of the workplace and identification of areas that may result in entrapment or "no escape" for an employee if they become a victim of violence and harassment; and
  • Measures that are in place to protect psychological health and safety in the workplace.

From the assessment of risk, measures protecting employees from workplace violence and harassment are to be developed. Those measures are to be implemented within six months of the assessment. These preventive measures, or control measures, should consider engineering and administrative controls that will help to protect the safety of employees from violence and harassment.

Employers need to be aware of the new requirements and ensure their organization is compliant by January 1, 2021. The requirements of the Regulations should provide further support for employers in their efforts to protect their employees from harassment and/or violence at the workplace.