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Developing a Workplace Harassment Policy and Program

  • Issued: April 21, 2010
  • Content last reviewed: June 2013
  • PDF VersionPDF [ 2.27 Mb / 40 pages | Download Adobe Reader ]
  • DISCLAIMER: The material contained in this document is for information and reference purposes only and is not intended as legal or professional advice. The adoption of the practices described in this document may not meet all the needs, requirements, or obligations of individual workplaces.

Know your Legal Responsibilities

Be sure you know your responsibilities as they relate to addressing workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. See page 26 for more information.

The collective agreement(s) in your workplace may also have provisions about workplace harassment.

Collect Workplace Information

Gathering information about your workplace will help to inform your workplace harassment policy and program. You may:

  • ask workers and supervisors about their concerns regarding workplace harassment;
  • gather information on workplace harassment incidents; or,
  • gather current policies and programs, such as anti-harassment or anti-harassment policies or respectful workplace programs.

Create or Adapt a Workplace Harassment Policy

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that you have a policy regarding workplace harassment. Your workplace may already have an anti-harassment policy based on the Ontario Human Rights Code that could be broadened to deal with all behaviours that meet the definition of workplace harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If you decide to have two separate policies, they should be cross-referenced.

The policy should be a high-level statement of the commitment of senior management to protect workers from workplace harassment, and to investigate and deal with any incidents. The policy should address all sources of harassment in the workplace, from strangers, clients, customers, patients, students, workers, supervisors, intimate partners, or family members.

See the Policy, Program, and Training Review Tool in the Toolbox for suggestions of what a workplace harassment policy should address. See the Toolbox for an Example Workplace Harassment Policy.

Develop a Workplace Harassment Program

Measures and Procedures for Reporting and Investigation

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that you have a program regarding workplace harassment that must include:

  • measures and procedures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to their employer or supervisor; and
  • how the employer will investigate and deal with incidents and complaints of workplace harassment.

It is important for employers to have systems in place that allow workers to bring forward their concerns about workplace harassment. If the procedure dictates that workers should report harassment complaints to their manager, there should also be alternative procedures for workers to report harassment originating from their manager.

For examples of measures and procedures for reporting and investigating, see the Policy, Program, and Training Review Tool in the Toolbox . This tool also includes information on other related measures and procedures and training.

You may wish to supplement your workplace harassment program, for example by developing a code of conduct for the workplace or creating a respectful workplace program. Unions may also have resources to help workers who have been harassed.

Put your Workplace Harassment Policy and Program into Practice

Measures and Procedures

It is not enough to just develop your workplace harassment policy and program — you need to put the measures and procedures into practice, and train workers and supervisors.

Information, Instruction, Education, and Training

Information, instruction, education, and/or training are important to preventing workplace harassment.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that all workers, including managers and supervisors, receive information and instruction on the contents of the policy and program regarding workplace harassment, including the complaint and investigation processes.

This training could be:

  • integrated into your orientation training;
  • integrated with workplace violence prevention training;
  • integrated with other sensitivity, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, or respectful workplace training; or,
  • be specific to workplace harassment.

You may wish to provide additional training in your workplace, such as workplace harassment awareness and prevention or human rights in Ontario.

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