Changes are coming to Alberta’s legislation – ones which many employers may not be fully prepared for.
The majority of changes will be made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and to the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA). These changes stem from the introduction of Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans. While many of the changes to the WCA are already in force, the majority of the changes to the OHSA, and some further changes to the WCA, are due to take effect on June 1, 2018.
We spoke to Cristina Wendel, partner at Dentons, who’ll be speaking at our upcoming webinar - Bill 30, an act to protect the health and well-being of working Albertans.
“One of the big talking points of the OHSA amendments is the introduction and expansion of what is defined as ‘health and safety’,” explained Wendel.
“In Alberta, historically, health and safety in the workplace has been focused purely on the physical elements – but this is expanding in the new legislation to include not just the physical health and safety, but also psychological and social well-being. Meaning the definition is actually being changed to help protect more than just employees’ physical health.”
As it currently stands in Alberta, employers’ responsibility when it comes to workplace violence is limited to incidents which deal with physical harm. However, this is expanding to include psychological harm, such as the harassment and bullying of employees.
“Even domestic violence will be included in the definition,” added Wendel. “This signals that domestic violence will no longer be thought of as a private matter, but a recognition that it can spill over into employees’ working live and affect their career. Employers will have specific obligations in terms of dealing with harassment and violence.”
Sexual harassment will also be considered a health and safety issue going forward. Historically, it’s never been that way in Alberta.
“Currently, there really is no recourse under the OHSA if an employee is being bullied or harassed and it doesn’t get to the point of physical violence,” continued Wendel. “As a result of the new expansions, employers can be charged if they fail to meet their obligations – namely that employees are not subject to, or partaking in, acts of harassment at the worksite.”
To find out exactly how Bill 30 will affect your employees and your organization, be sure to secure your place at our upcoming webinar – Bill 30, an act to protect the health and well-being of working Albertans.