Federally-Regulated Employers, Are You Prepared for the New Harassment and Violence Policy Obligations?

The Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (the “Regulations”) are set to come into force on January 1, 2021. Federally-regulated employers should take proactive steps to review their policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant.

The Regulations impose significant obligations on federally-regulated employers to co-operate with an employee representative “applicable partner” to develop a harassment and violence policy, to appoint a “designated recipient” to review harassment complaints against them, and to take proactive steps to identify and prevent harassment.

There are three fundamental components to the Regulations: a policy development component, an independent harassment review component, and a harassment and violence prevention component.

Policy Development

The policy development component requires employers to work with either their policy committee, workplace committee, or health and safety representatives (defined as their “applicable partner”) to develop a comprehensive harassment and violence policy. The policy must provide emergency procedures to be implemented when harassment or violence occurs, a description of the recourse available to a person who is involved in an occurrence, and a description of the support measures available to employees involved in an occurrence.

Independent Harassment Review

The independent harassment review component requires employers and their applicable partner to identify a person or committee to review harassment complaints in which the employer is the principal or responding party (referred to as a “designated recipient”). The designated recipient is responsible for conducting an initial review of the occurrence, facilitating a negotiated resolution of the complaint, and, if required, appointing an independent investigator to investigate the complaint.

Harassment and Violence Prevention

The harassment and violence prevention component requires the employer and the applicable partner to conduct a workplace assessment to identify risks of harassment and violence and to develop training for workplace harassment and violence for employees, the employer, and the designated recipient.

A detailed review of the Regulations can be found at our previous blog: New Harassment and Violence Policy Obligations for Federally-Regulated Employers.

Proactive Steps

There are a number of proactive steps that federally-regulated employers should take prior to the Regulations coming into force on January 1, 2021.

These steps may significantly reduce difficulties in the negotiation process with employers’ applicable partners and ease the transition to the new obligations. The steps include, among others, identifying the employer’s applicable partner, reviewing and adapting their existing harassment and workplace violence policies to conform to the Regulations, and identifying potential designated recipients and investigators for harassment complaints. These steps cannot replace negotiations with employers’ applicable partners, which is a requirement that permeates the Regulations, but may provide a basis for negotiations, delineate the scope of the negotiations, and facilitate the transition to the framework provided by the Regulations.

The changes introduced by the Regulations are significant and may be difficult to navigate. Employers are encouraged to seek legal advice in preparing for and complying with the new harassment and violence Regulations. Our team of labour and employment lawyers can answer your questions and help your organization prepare for the upcoming change.