Changes to the Canadian Federal Workplace Harassment and Violence Regime:

*Written by Hannah Goranson

Employees are entitled to work in a safe work environment, free from harassment and violence. In an effort to help keep employees safe in the workplace, the federal government has introduced the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (the "Regulations"). The Regulations come into force on January 1, 2021, and significantly modify the violence and harassment rules currently in place for federally regulated workplaces.

Federal Workplaces:

The Regulations will only apply to federally regulated employers who are governed by the Canada Labour Code ("Code"). Federal employers generally include organizations operating on a Canada wide basis, for example, radio and television broadcasters, telecommunication companies, and air transportation, amongst others.

The Regulations will not apply to provincially regulated organizations, which will continue to be governed by each province's applicable health and safety legislation. If employers have any doubt about whether the new rules will apply to them, they are encouraged to seek legal assistance.

Changes to the Workplace Harassment and Violence Rules:

Currently, the federal workplace harassment and violence rules are located piecemeal throughout the Code. The Regulations will create one regime that comprehensively deals with harassment and violence.

There will now be a single definition of harassment and violence as: "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." This new definition specifically includes harassment of a non-sexual nature, which is not currently addressed by the Code provisions.

Additionally, the Code provisions relating to sexual harassment currently only apply to federal employers in the private sector. In contrast, the new regime for violence and harassment will apply to both public and private sector federal employers.

Importantly, the Regulations impose significant obligations on employers. To comply with the Regulations, employers must:

  • Assess the workplace for risks factors that may contribute to workplace harassment or violence and implement preventative measures;
  • Develop a workplace harassment and violence prevention policy jointly with a policy committee, the workplace committee, or the health and safety representative, and make the policy available to all employees;
  • Investigate, record and report occurrences of harassment and violence in the workplace;
  • Implement the recommendations contained in an investigator's report;
  • Respond to occurrences of workplace harassment and violence that involve former employees if the occurrence becomes known to the employer within 3 months of the former employee leaving employment;
  • Maintain health and safety records, which include copies of the assessment documents, prevention policies, and records of all notices of occurrences, and report annually to the Minister of Labour; and
  • Provide information to employees on the support available to them.

Workplace Prevention Plans:

Employers are encouraged to consider what steps they may need to take to ensure their workplace policies and practices comply with the detailed requirements of the Regulations in advance of the Regulations coming into effect. Specifically, employers should review and revise their workplace harassment and violence prevention plan to ensure it includes the following elements:

  • Mission statement regarding prevention and protection against harassment and violence;
  • Description of the roles of the employer, designated recipient, employees, policy committee, work-place committee, and safety representative;
  • Summary of the risk factors;
  • Summary of the training provided to employees;
  • Summary of the resolution process;
  • Reasons for when a review and update of the assessment must be carried out;
  • Summary of emergency procedures for when an occurrence poses an immediate danger;
  • Description of how the employer will protect the privacy of persons involved in an occurrence or resolution process;
  • Description of any recourse that may be available to persons involved in an occurrence;
  • Description of the support measures that are available to employees; and
  • Name of the person who is designated to receive a complaint.

Employers should also be prepared to conduct an assessment for risks of workplace harassment and violence, and host training sessions for employees.


Given that the Regulations impose significant new obligations on employers, it is crucial that employers take the time to familiarize themselves with the Regulations and carefully review their current workplace violence and harassment policies and practices well prior to January 1, 2021.

Lee Workplace Law would be happy to answer any questions your organization may have about its obligations under the Code and the Regulations.