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Ushering in a New Year: Federal anti-harassment and violence legislation now in effect

January 8, 2021

January 1, 2021 ushered in a new year with the hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be behind us. For federally regulated employers, the federal government’s Bill C-65 also became effective.

Bill C-65 amended the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”) to address anti-workplace violence and harassment, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. It also introduced a new regulation, “Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations” which accompany the changes to the Code.

These amendments and the new regulation bring the federal government and parliamentary workplaces in line with various provincial legislation, such as that introduced in Ontario by Bill 168 in 2010, to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace.

What is significant about the changes to the federal legislation is:

  • harassment and violence are defined and there is a recognition that the impact on a complainant employee can include “physical or psychological injury or illness”
  • employers are required to have a policy which addresses both violence and harassment. There are specific requirements about what the policy must contain and who is involved in drafting the policy, depending on the number of employees in the workplace
  • employers are required to respond to occurrences of workplace harassment and violence, including to former employees if the occurrence becomes known to the employer within three months of the employee ceasing employment
  • employers must offer support to affected employees including medical, psychological or other support services that are available to employees within their geographical area
  • employers are required to have an internal complaint resolution process, including employees making a complaint when there is a risk of workplace-related “illnesses”
  • a notice of occurrence is not required if responding party is neither the employer nor an employee; and,
  • training requirements are identified for an employer to provide to employees

Time will tell whether the changes are effective in resolving and/or reducing harassment and violence in the workplace, but they are a good start and support the philosophy that an employer is legally responsible for providing its employees with a psychologically safe and harassment-free workplace.