The Government of Canada has introduced amendments to the Canada Labour Code and other federal legislation designed to deal with workplace sexual harassment in federally regulated industries and the federal Parliament itself. The proposed legislation, which is still presently at the committee stage, is Bill C-65.
The purpose of the new law is to:
- Prevent incidents of harassment and violence;
- Require an effective response to these issues when the employer is aware of same;
- Allow for support to the victims and employers.
The Bill intends to create one uniform policy for all employers under federal law, not just federally regulated industries, as it includes the federal public service, parliamentary workplaces such as the Senate, the Library of Parliament and political staff employed at the House of Commons.
Currently under the Canada Labour Code section 247.1 there is a workplace sexual harassment provision which applies to federally regulated businesses. This will be repealed when the new Bill is passed. The new legislation takes a more aggressive approach to ensure employers respond to the allegations when made and to offer support to the affected employees.
It is also the intent of the federal Government to provide assistance to employers and employees alike to help them understand their respective obligations and rights and to provide a resolution process.
Some of the more significant revisions to the existing law include the following:
- Mandatory training in the prevention of harassment and violence to all employees, including persons with supervisory or managerial responsibilities;
- A complaint process to allow for any person to complain about a violation of the law, or an anticipated wrongdoing;
- A mandatory resolution process to resolve any complaint;
- Where a complaint is not resolved, it is to be referred to the chairperson of the health and safety committee;
- The right to bring the complaint to the Minister in the case of an issue related to an occurrence of harassment and violence;
- The right of a former employee to institute the complaint process;
- The definition of harassment and violence “means any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.”
The new Bill will require employers to review their workplace policies and will mandate training for federally regulated companies. Once enacted, the law will create new employee rights and both employers and employees alike will have to be up to date on their respective obligations.
The Bill remains under review. Any further revisions will be considered when effective.
If you have queries about this issue, whether you are an employer or employee, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace matters, including harassment, discrimination and other human rights matters. Contact us online or by phone at 416 364 9599 to schedule a consultation.
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