Companies have had almost 3 years to implement violence and harassment prevention in the workplace provisions under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act , OHSA (also known as Bill 168). Like other items in the OHSA, obligations on employers to prevent workplace violence and harassment with written policies and programs require ongoing commitment, training, and review. A few highlights of some of the requirements that employers with five or more employees must demonstrate include:
Ontario’s recently enacted workplace violence amendment places a legal onus on provincially regulated employers to safeguard employees from the risk of domestic violence in the workplace. Additional jurisdictions are likely to follow suit. In legal terms, domestic violence is increasingly becoming a foreseeable workplace risk. In moral terms, inaction on this growing workplace issue would introduce unacceptable human risk.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the requirements of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace) 2009 are uncontroversial, and most organizations should have little trouble understanding them and complying. However, one aspect of the law has caused more discussion and confusion than any other: the domestic violence provisions, which require employers to intervene in instances where they suspect (based on reasonable evidence) that an employee has suffered or is suffering from domestic violence, particularly if that violence might reach into the workplace.
Occupational health and safety legislation across Canada requires employers to identify any existing or foreseeable hazards that might arise in the workplace, and to conduct an assessment of these various workplace hazards that employees might be exposed to, or that may arise from the nature of the workplace, and the type and conditions of the work…
On January 27, 2010, I attended the HRPA annual conference. I was most interested on the session titled, Violence in the Workplace: An Update on Bill 168 from the Ministry of Labour. I needed some clarification on possible exemptions to the new violence and harassment prevention law and the application of certain measures in the bill.
The Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act violence and harassment prevention provisions (Bill 168) require an employer to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances for the protection of all employees if a domestic violence situation is likely to expose a worker to physical injury in the workplace and the employer becomes aware or ought reasonably to be aware of the situation.
But what does that imply? The law states the requirement but provides little guidance on what employers need to do to prevent domestic violence from spilling into the workplace. In addition, many employers are not comfortable addressing a situation of such a personal nature. It is not an easy task to complete and might never be.
Following my December 14 blog post , the Ontario government gave royal assent to Bill 168, Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace) 2009, on December 15, 2009. As we stated…
Unfortunately, Bill 168 as it stands is vague with regard to what employers must actually do in cases where domestic violence enters the workplace. Legal authorities seem to have little direction to offer on the matter as well.
All workplaces house risks to employees’ health and safety in varying degrees: factories have machinery that can cause serious injuries; warehouses store loads and move them around with cumbersome vehicles, both of which have the potential to injure; even office environments are far from risk-free, although the threats tend to be less visible, like poor indoor air quality and ergonomic arrangements. However, only in the last decade or so has the issue of violence in the workplace gained wide recognition—and this is an issue that can affect all workplaces indiscriminately.