Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act come into force September 8th

September 2nd, 2016 by Lauren Blumas

Workplace sexual harassment has been in the news, a lot. The legislature responded to calls for increased protections for workers by proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which expand the scope of harassment to include workplace sexual harassment and increase employer obligations to employees.

Those amendments come into force on September 8th. Employers and employees need familiarize themselves with those amendments if they have not already. We blogged about the amendments back in April, here.

So what are the essentials for September 8th?

  1. Most organizations will be aware of the protections against sexual harassment under the Ontario Human Rights Code. There are now the same explicit protections for workers under the OHSA. This means that workers will have another avenue of recourse against an employer by making a complaint under the OHSA.
  2. Employers are already required to have a policy on workplace harassment under the OHSA (written, or not, depending on size). These policies must be updated to comply with the amendments. You can find the specific requirements in our April blog post.
  3. Employers will have duty to:
    1. Investigate complaints of harassment, including sexual harassment, “that is appropriate in the circumstances”. ; and
    2. Inform the complainant, in writing, of the results of the investigation and any action taken;
  4. Employers must develop a written program to implement the policy, which includes:
    1. Measures for workers to report incidents of workplace harassment to a person other than the alleged harasser;
    2. How complaints will be investigated and dealt with;
    3. How information about an incident will be kept confidential; and
    4. How the complainant and the alleged harasser will be informed of the results of the investigation.

Small organizations, like many of our clients, may be used to a more informal policies and practices in dealing with workplace harassment. The amendments require a more formalized and stringent approach to dealing with workplace harassment, despite organizational size.

You can read about the related amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that were introduced by the same Bill 132, here.

Filed in: Employment Law

Tags: , , , ,