The federal government recently issued the final draft of new regulations set to address workplace violence and harassment in federally-regulated workplaces. Below we will provide an overview of the changes. First, however, we will provide a brief update of the ongoing provincial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Updates in Ontario

The present state of emergency, which was first declared to be effective on March 17, was recently extended to July 22nd. Under existing law, the province is allowed to issue emergency orders only while this status of emergency remains in place. The government announced that the extension was made “to ensure the province maintains the necessary flexibility to protect public health and safety as more businesses reopen and people go back to work.”

A new law has now been proposed, which will allow for further orders which are less emphatic. This law will allow the province to extend or amend any emergency order now in place for one month at a time. The enabling legislation, highlighted above, will expire 12 months following its enactment.

Certain orders will expire and are not to be renewed. These include the prohibition on price gouging, which will expire on July 22.

The pending statue will also allow the government to move parts of the province back to earlier shutdown phases if necessary, dependent upon the statistics of new cases and other data. The intent is to end the status of the emergency and allow for ad hoc flexible measures to address further current issues as they develop.

New Federal Harassment and Violence Protection Laws

On June 24, 2020, the federal government issued the final draft of the regulations under the Canada Labour Code which are intended to prevent workplace harassment and violence in the federal sector. The effective date of these new rules is January 1, 2021. The intent of the later start date is designed to allow employers time to prepare to be compliant with the new rules when they come into force.

These regulations contain significant variations from the prior draft which was issued in April of 2019.

What’s New?

Employers must develop a policy that is compliant with the regulations by the implementation date. The following critical issues must be clearly set out in any workplace harassment and violence policy:

  1. A mission statement;
  2. The name of the person to whom complaints are to be addressed;
  3. A description of the roles of the employer, employees, the designated complaint recipient and the applicable partner;
  4. Details of the training provided to any complaint recipient;
  5. A description of the resolution grievance process;
  6. A summary of the workplace’s emergency procedures;
  7. Steps to be taken to protect the privacy of the persons involved in a complaint;
  8. A review of support measures available to employees.

Significantly, the policy must also include a review of other recourses available to those persons involved. This would likely include human rights remedies, civil actions and criminal prosecutions.

In addition, the employer and the health and safety representative must conduct a workplace assessment to determine risk areas and develop preventative measures. Also, workplace violence training is mandatory for all employees.

The complaint procedure must be codified and follow the process set out as follows:

  1. The complaint may be made anonymously or by the alleged victim or a witness;
  2. The employer must respond within 7 days to acknowledge receipt of the complaint, advise as to the manner in which the complaint is to be addressed and to instruct the complainant that legal representation may be allowed.
  3. Monthly updates must follow to all parties involved.
  4. The employer must also notify the party involved of all support systems that are available to them.
  5. Settlement efforts must commence at least within 45 days of the complaint.
  6. If no settlement is possible, the principal party may request a reconciliation process or an investigation.
  7. Once the investigation process commences, the parties must agree to the name of the investigator, failing which the Minister will appoint one following a request to this effect by the employer.
  8. The investigator must then provide their final report, details as they found them, their conclusions and recommendations to avoid a repetition of similar events.
  9. This process must be completed within 12 months.

The above is a summary only. Full details can be viewed by clicking here.

Get Advice and Know Your Rights

Federal employers should plan to address these updated requirements as soon as possible to ensure compliance by the deadline. Employees should be aware of these procedures and their rights at all times. The law is an evolving instrument, and it is important to stay up to date and aware of your obligations and rights, as the case may be.

We remain by your side to provide real-time practical insight to the law and your position, whether you’re an employer or employee. For advice on this issue and all employment law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.