Bill C-65 against workplace harassment and violence is a step in the right direction

The Institute applauds the introduction earlier this week of Bill C-65, the federal government’s long-awaited legislation addressing workplace harassment and violence. For years, PIPSC advocated for the government to recognize and tackle this issue of critical importance to Canadians everywhere.

The Bill cannot come at a more opportune time for our members. The latest annual survey of the public service shows a rise in workplace harassment and a significant rate of workplace stress. One-third of public service workers (34%) said their workplace stress was “high” or “very high”. A similar number of respondents (27%) felt that their workplace was not “psychologically healthy.” The percentage of workers who said they have been harassed at work was up to 22% from 19% in 2014. The results were even higher for equity groups, with the highest rates of harassment (40%) being reported by workers with disabilities. Aboriginal workers also reported high rates of harassment (33%).

The new legislation covers federally-regulated workplaces, including the public service. Changes being proposed to the Canada Labour Code include repealing weak provisions and ensuring that employers are required to take steps to prevent and protect employees against these behaviours, to respond to them when they do occur, and to offer support to those employees affected by them.

The government will also launch an awareness campaign to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes, develop sample policies for employers, and will provide outreach to help employees and employers navigate the process.

While the Bill is a step in the right direction, PIPSC will be working with the government to ensure the legislation addresses its members’ concerns when it comes to ensuring their workplaces are harassment-free, and that adequate/appropriate recourse is available to harassment victims so that their complaints are addressed promptly and fairly.

As well, the legislation needs to provide an inclusive definition of “harassment” that reflects all its forms. If labour inspectors are involved, there must be adequate staffing and training. Finally, the legislation must ensure that those affected have the right to representation and information about the progress of their complaint.

We will update members as C-65 makes its way through the legislative process.