SK Government Proposes OHS Amendments to Employment Act

The Saskatchewan Government recently proposed amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act which aim to improve workplace health and safety and to better meet the needs of changing workplaces.

The Saskatchewan Government introduced Bill 91, An Act to amend The Saskatchewan Employment Act (the “Amendment Act 2022”) on November 3, 2022. Many of the proposed amendments are the result of a review and public consultation conducted by the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety from 2021-2022.  The most notable potential changes include expanding the definition of a worker, and changes to provisions surrounding violence, harassment and workplace investigations.

Definition of Worker

The definition of worker under Part III and IV of The Saskatchewan Employment Act (the ”SEA”) would be expanded to include those enrolled in a secondary or post-secondary education institution. To be considered a worker, students would need permission from their employer to perform work or services, or the employer would need to engage them in training.

In addition, a volunteer or independent or dependent contractor would be considered a worker under the SEA in situations relating to workplace harassment and violence.

Workplace Violence

A major focus of the amendments is preventing workplace violence. Provisions would be introduced that impose a duty on the employer and supervisors to ensure workers are not exposed to violence at work.  The amendments also include a requirement that workers refrain from causing or participating in workplace violence.

The SEA currently requires employers to develop and implement a written policy statement and prevention plan to deal with workplace violence in more limited situations. The amendments would require that all employers implement such policy. This requirement would take effect one year after the amendments come into force. If passed, the amendments would also require employers to investigate all incidents involving workplace violence.

Workplace Harassment and Discrimination

The proposed changes in the Amendment Act 2022 also include specific direction that an employer must conduct an investigation into any incident of workplace harassment.

The definition of discriminatory action would be altered by the Amendment Act 2022 to include acts taken by a person acting on behalf of an employer.

Workplace Investigations

Another notable change includes allowing occupational health officers to take photographs or recordings during workplace investigations. The proposed changes would also give an officer the power to exclude an individual who has been nominated to be interviewed in an investigation. If a person were to be excluded, the interviewee would be able to nominate another person to be present.

Other Amendments

Other amendments are being proposed to ensure the SEA aligns with the changes made to the Canadian Hazardous Materials Information Review Act. The Amendment Act 2022 would allow the director of occupational health and safety to defer action on an appeal if another proceeding is underway. Provisions that require mitigation of wages for workers who suffered discriminatory action would be repealed. The proposed changes also include general and housekeeping amendments.

If passed, the majority of the amendments to the SEA would come into force on royal assent.

MLT Aikins LLP will continue to follow the progress of Bill 91 as it makes its way through the Legislature. In the meantime, if you have questions about what these potential changes mean to your organization, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Occupational Health and Safety or Labour and Employment team.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.