Employers Beware: You Need a Workplace Violence and Workplace Harassment Policy, and You Need It Now

On June 15, 2010 there were changes made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Canada that required most employers to take additional steps to protect employees from workplace harassment and workplace violence.

If you operate a company in Canada and are just becoming aware of these policies, you are not compliant and the faster your company can implement these policies the better.

As a result of these changes, workplace harassment will be defined as a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. It will not be limited to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Code (e.g. race, religion, sex, etc).

Workplace violence will be defined as physical force or an attempt to exercise physical force that causes or could cause physical injury the employee(s). Most employers will be required to do the following to comply with the changes:

– complete a written risk assessment for workplace violence;
– prepare a written workplace violence and harassment policy; and
– develop programs and procedures to implement the policy.

The risk assessment must include an evaluation of an employee’s personal security during the course of his or her work on or outside the employer’s premises.

Employers who are aware or ought reasonably to be aware of a situation of domestic violence are required to take every reasonable precaution to protect their workers from it in the workplace.

The policy and procedures must do the following:

– control the risk of violence and harassment as identified by the assessment;
– enable workers to get emergency assistance in the case of real violence, its risk or threat, and to report violence and harassment to the employer;
– set out a system of how an employer will investigate complaints from their employees;
– deal with training employees to ensure policy compliance within the workplace.

Employers will have to ensure that they are compliant with the changes so they can guarantee that their employees are safe and secured while in their care. Compliance is necessary as it is not only mandatory in the law but these policies would definitely improve the working environment in your company.
If the employer has failed to comply with the changes, the Minister may:
– reduce or suspend grants to the entity while the non-compliance continues;
– assume control of the entity and responsibility for its affairs and operations;
– revoke the designation and cease to provide grants to the entity; or
– take such other steps as he or she considers appropriate.

The above is meant as a brief overview however for more specific details please review the Occupational Health and Safety Act or contact an employment lawyer.

If you are employed by a Canadian company that does not have a workplace harassment policy or workplace violence policy in place, now would be the time to create your policies to ensure the company is compliant and to avoid any penalties or legal complications in future.