New OHSA Amendments Start in September – is Your Ontario Business Ready?

In late 2015 the Ontario Government took steps to ensure provincial workplaces are free from sexual harassment & domestic violence-related matters by introducing the Sexual Violence and

Harassment Action Plan Act, otherwise known as Bill 132.

Created to amend existing statutes on sexual harassment and sexual & domestic violence, Bill 132 includes a change to OHSA’s (Ontario Health and Safety Act) definition of “workplace harassment,” to include, “workplace sexual harassment.” And that simple single-word addition is having a significant impact on Ontario businesses, imposing additional obligations on employers’ harassment programs, policies, and investigations.

Is your business ready for the September 8 implementation date? Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re compliant:

Policy Revision

Under the new requirements, your workplace harassment policy must specifically address “workplace sexual harassment.” That means if your current policy doesn’t already speak to the issue, revisions are required.

Written Workplace Harassment Program

You’ll need to join forces with your health and safety representative (or committee) to create written workplace harassment program procedures that address how:

  • Employees are to report incidents of workplace harassment, including workplace sexual harassment, to their supervisor. The program must also provide alternate reporting options for situations where the employee’s supervisor is the alleged harasser.
  • Reports of workplace harassment complaints or incidents reported will be followed up on and dealt with.
  • Privacy will be upheld for all persons involved in the complaint or incident, including any identifying information about the claimant or the accused.
  • How the outcome of the investigation of the complaint or incident, including information surrounding corrective actions taken, will be communicated to the complainant, the accused, as well as any other involved parties or persons.

Establish Annual Review Timeline

An annual review of your workplace harassment program is required by the new OHSA amendments, coming into effect on September 8. While a yearly review is the minimum mandatory requirement, it’s a good idea to establish a timeline that includes policy reviews as often as needed.

Creation of Internal Guidelines

The creation of a set of internal guidelines is required. The guidelines must address how investigations into all complaints will be done, and how the outcome of the investigations will be conveyed to those involved, including any corrective action.

Communication Plan

Create an effective way to communicate all relevant information about new policies implemented to comply with OHSA workplace harassment requirements.

In addition to these five essential requirements, the OHSA amendments provide inspectors the power to seek a third-party harassment investigation, at the employer’s expense.

The Government’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act intends to release a new “code of practice” for Ontario employers. The code of practice will provide more detail on the mandatory steps companies must take to fully comply with the new OHSA amendments. Due out on or about September 8, the new code is expected to provide additional guidance about compliance expectations.

If your business is looking for additional HR and staffing support, contact the experts at Employment Professionals Canada. As the leading recruiting firm in Southern Ontario, we have the industry expertise to help meet your staffing needs. Contact us today to learn more about our recruiting and staffing services in Ontario.