The federal government is pushing for stronger regulations against harassment in the workplace, giving employers a clear course of action and exerting greater pressure on them to deal with unacceptable behaviour at work.
The new legislation was unveiled Tuesday, reported Canadian Business.
“Smart employers already take action. They already have comprehensive regulations and policies. They already protect their employees from harassment and sexual violence,” Labour Minister Patty Hajdu
said at a news conference.
“What this (legislation) will compel is those other employers that are not taking it as seriously and not putting forward the protections that every person has the right to in the workplace.”
Among the salient points of the proposed law are:
- It will merge separate labour standards for sexual harassment and violence. It will subject them to the same scrutiny and dispute resolution process.
- The process could include having an outside investigator brought in to review allegations.
- The new rules will enforce strict privacy rules to protect victims of violence or harassment.
- It will allow anyone unhappy with how their dispute is being handled to complain to the federal labour minister, who could step in to investigate and order sanctions for employers.
- It does not outline sanctions for employees found guilty of harassment; the consequences would be on employers for their failure to protect their workers.
Hajdu said the government wanted to give people confidence that inappropriate office behaviour would not be swept under the rug.
“That’s an important piece about this legislation that we do combat that very real perception where people say they have come forward, they have taken the chance to speak about their experience, and nothing is done.”
Once in effect, the rules will apply to all federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, telecommunications and transport industries. These represent about 8% of the national labour force.
But Labour officials say the rules could take a year or more before coming into effect, because regulations still have to be crafted once the bill is given parliamentary approval.
Still, Hadju said, her office would not wait a year before helping businesses who already want their policies in place in the interim.
The proposal comes in the aftermath of allegations of sexual harassment in show business, art, government and other industries, but the government in fact launched consultations on dealing with workplace violence in the summer of 2016.
These were to review the existing laws and regulations under the Canada Labour Code.
Last week, a federal survey showed that while three-quarters of respondents said they recently reported harassment, sexual harassment or violence, two-fifths of those complaints were never addressed. However, the results of the online survey are not representative of the population because it was not a random sampling, officials warned.
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