Outlining new requirements of a violence and harassment policy
By Bill Howatt and Troy Winters
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third commentary in a four-part series designed to help employers navigate Bill C-65 to ensure compliance.
On Jan. 1, new regulations related to Bill C-65 came into force toward the prevention and resolution of violence and harassment in the federally regulated workforce.
The following examines the 13 aspects that are now required for an employer’s violence and harassment policy.
The regulations require that the new policy be jointly developed with the applicable partner.
In organizations with more than 300 workers, this will be the policy committee. If there are between 20 and 300 workers, the workplace committee will participate, and if there are fewer than 20, it will be the health and safety representative.
While the employer does have the final say on policy elements, they are required to document where there were disagreements with the worker members of the applicable party, and the reasons they chose to proceed the way they did.
This should be a clear statement that the employer will be actively working to prevent harassment and violence.
Most will probably include this as part of their introduction.
Description of the respective roles
The policy will need to explain the roles of the employer, the designated recipient (a new position for many, who will receive complaints), relevant health and safety committee or rep, and the roles and expectations of all other workers.
Internal and external risk factors
The policy will need to state the various hazards and contributing risk factors that will increase the likelihood of a worker experiencing harassment or violence.
A summary of the workplace harassment and violence training that will be provided, or is required for all employees, must be included.
It is also advised to provide information on frequency and timing.
A summary of the resolution process
As was covered in our previous commentary, there is a new, multi-stage process to resolve a notice of an occurrence of violence or harassment.
The policy must describe how the organization will move through these required stages.
Exactly who to report to
The policy must state the name or identity of the designated recipient(s). This could be a designated position within the organization.
As verbal complaints are allowed by the regulations, enough information on who to report to should be provided (for example, simply providing a generic email will probably not be sufficient).
How a principal party (the person who experienced the alleged harassment or violence) or a witness may provide the employer or designated recipient with notice of an occurrence.
Triggers for assessment review
The employer and the applicable partner must review the assessment every three years, but must also jointly review and, if necessary, update the workplace assessment if there has been a report of an occurrence.
The policy must describe the situations that would trigger a review of the assessment.
Employers must ensure that there are emergency procedures for when an occurrence (or threat of an occurrence) poses an immediate danger to the health and safety of an employee.
A summary of these procedures must be included in the policy.
Complete privacy is rarely possible and should not be promised.
The policy must include a description of how personal information is collected, used, and/or disclosed.
Though the new regulations provide a robust resolution process, there are other potential avenues for a worker to pursue.
The policy must include a description of the legal rights and recourse under the Canada Labour Code, Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Canadian Human Rights Act, and other applicable laws, regulations, or legal agreements (such as in a union collective agreement) that may be available to persons who are involved in an occurrence.
The policy must list and describe the support measures available to employees. These may include employee assistance programs, community resources, resources for domestic violence, and more.
For some, updating policies to meet all the requirements will take a significant amount of work.
Though the regulator has indicated they will be giving some grace time to bring policies into compliance, employers are advised to begin the updating process as soon as possible, to ensure they do not fall too far behind.
The final commentary in this series will explore the importance of a violence and harassment risk assessment.
Dr. Bill Howatt is the Ottawa-based president of Howatt HR Consulting and the former Chief of Research and Workforce Productivity at The Conference Board of Canada.
Troy Winters is a senior health and safety officer at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ottawa.
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