Workplace harassment can undermine a person’s dignity. It can prevent workers from doing their jobs effectively. Workplace harassment, left unchecked, has the potential to escalate into violent behaviour. All workers are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace.

One of the primary purposes of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is to promote a strong Internal Responsibility System (IRS). The IRS means that everyone in the workplace has a role to play in keeping workplaces safe and healthy. Workers in the workplace who see a health and safety problem such as a hazard or contravention of the OHSA in the workplace have a duty to report the situation to their employer or a supervisor. Employers and supervisors are, in turn, required to address those situations.

The employer, typically represented by senior management, has the greatest responsibilities with respect to health and safety in the workplace. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the IRS is established, promoted, and that it functions successfully. A strong IRS is an important element of a healthy and safe culture in a workplace.

This Code of Practice to address Workplace Harassment is designed to help employers meet their obligations with respect to the workplace harassment provisions under the OHSA.

How to use the Code of Practice

This Code of Practice to address Workplace Harassment (“Code of Practice”) is approved by the Minister of Labour under Part III.1 of the OHSA for use at all workplaces to which the OHSA applies. Compliance with the practices set out in this Code of Practice is one way in which employers can meet the legal requirements regarding workplace harassment specified under sections 32.0.1 (1)(b)(c), 32.0.1(2), 32.0.6(1) and (2), 32.0.7 and 32.0.8 (“Workplace Harassment Provisions”) of the OHSA. Determination about whether OHSA requirements have been met is made by Ministry of Labour health and safety inspectors.

This Code of Practice has four Parts. Employers may choose to adhere to one or all of the Parts of the Code of Practice. If an employer adheres with a Part of the Code of Practice, it must adhere with all of the Practice outlined under that Part to be deemed in compliance with the related workplace harassment provision. For example, if an employer adheres with Part II of the Code of Practice on the Workplace Harassment Program, it must follow the entire practice under Part II to be deemed in compliance with the workplace harassment program provisions in the OHSA referred to in Part II.

Failure to comply with all or part of the Code of Practice may not be a breach of the Workplace Harassment Provisions under the OHSA because, as noted above, the Code of Practice is just one way in which employers can meet the legal requirements regarding workplace harassment.

Each Part contains:

General Information – General information is for guidance only. The Practice section sets out how to comply with a provision of the Act.

Provision(s) – This refers to a legal requirement under the OHSA. The provisions of the OHSA are enforceable by Ministry of Labour health and safety inspectors.

Practice – A practice may be followed by an employer to comply with a specific Workplace Harassment Provision.

A template workplace harassment policy, workplace harassment program and investigation plan are also attached to this Code of Practice. These templates are provided as guidance material.

It is the responsibility of an employer to ensure compliance with the OHSA. If you need help in understanding specific obligations under the OHSA, you should seek legal advice.

For additional resources including the Ministry of Labour’s Guideline on Workplace Violence and Harassment: Understanding the Law, please refer to the Ministry of Labour web-site. If a worker requires more information about the worker’s rights under the OHSA, the worker may contact the Ministry of Labour’s Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

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