Recently, the federal government released the results of a year-long series of consultations with unions, employer organizations, federal government departments and agencies, academics, and advocacy groups on the subject of workplace harassment and violence. The consultation process also involved a public online survey, with over 1200 respondents providing information.
The Report, titled “Harassment and Sexual Violence in the Workplace Public Consultations: What We Heard”, includes anecdotal evidence suggesting that workplace harassment remains a significant issue in today’s workplaces. For example, 60% of online survey respondents reported having experienced harassment while at work, and 30% of those individuals said that they had experienced sexual harassment. 21% of respondents said that they had experienced violence, and 3% indicated they had experienced sexual violence.
Among other things, the stakeholders surveyed for the Report felt that, where employers retain a third-party to investigate allegations of workplace harassment and/or violence, those employers should be required to consider any recommendations made by the investigator. Furthermore, respondents stated that complainants should be empowered to launch formal complaints against employers that refuse to implement an investigator’s recommendation without offering a valid reason.
It’s important to note that the focus of the Report is limited to federally-regulated workplaces. Only 10% of Canadian employees are regulated by federal legislation, with the remainder being subject to provincial employment standards. Many of the suggestions contained in the Report are already found in Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which places obligations on employers to create and follow policies and programs for addressing workplace violence and harassment.
We will pay close attention to what, if any, action the federal government takes as a result of these public consultations, as any changes to federal legislation may result in similar amendments to Ontario’s laws.
The full Report is accessible here.