Bill 132 update: OHSA amendments are now in force; MOL updates plain language guide on workplace violence and harassment
As we have previously reported, Bill 132’s amendments to the workplace harassment provisions of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act came into force on September 8, 2016.
On September 13, 2016, the Ministry of Labour published an updated version of its guide, Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law (the “Guide”), which now includes guidance on the Bill 132 amendments. The Guide seeks to explain, in plain language, “what every worker, supervisor, employer and constructor needs to know about workplace violence and harassment requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act” and also answers frequently asked questions about the OHSA. In particular, the Guide clarifies the following points about the OHSA’s workplace harassment provisions:
- The suggested content of a workplace harassment policy, which is not otherwise set out in the OHSA;
- Examples of “reasonable action” that do not constitute workplace harassment under the OHSA;
- That employers can combine their workplace harassment policies and programs into one document or combine both documents with other workplace policies of the employer (e.g. workplace violence policies, anti-harassment or anti-discrimination policies, etc.), as long as all of the OHSA’s requirements are complied with;
- That someone either internal or external to the organization can receive reports of workplace harassment, as long as the report is addressed objectively and investigated in an appropriate manner;
- The characteristics of an “appropriate” investigation, including: who can investigate complaints, suggested stages of a complex investigation, and suggested timeframes for completing investigations;
- Examples of “corrective action” and how to provide the results of the investigation to involved parties in situations where the alleged harasser has left the organization;
- When and how employers should conduct a review of their existing workplace harassment programs;
- The scope of the employer’s duty to provide workers with “information and instruction”; and
- Who is an “impartial person” who could conduct a harassment investigation ordered by a Ministry of Labour inspector under the OHSA’s new enforcement mechanism.
The Ministry of Labour confirms that, unlike the Ministry’s Code of Practice for Workplace Harassment (which we reported on here), adherence to the contents of the Guide does not constitute compliance with the law. However, the Ministry also notes that its health and safety inspectors may refer to the Guide when enforcing compliance with the OHSA. As such, the Guide is a helpful resource for employers when creating, reviewing and implementing their workplace harassment policies and programs. The Guide can be accessed here.