Executive Council
February 23, 2018

Provincial Government Announces Harassment Free Workplace Policy for Departmental Government Employees

The Provincial Government today announced a newly strengthened and modernized Harassment Free Workplace Policy for departmental government employees. The new policy, which will come into full effect on June 1, 2018, is one of the most progressive workplace harassment policies in Canada.

The new policy incorporates all of the recommendations from the Rubin Thomlinson report that was commissioned to review government’s workplace and respectful workplace programs. It also incorporates best practices from other jurisdictions.  Key elements of the policy are:

  • An employee awareness program and mandatory training focused on prevention for all employees under the policy.
  • A 90-day timeline for all harassment investigations.
  • A “single-access entry” point has been established for complaints to be made. This will also ensure that all complaints are addressed in a consistent manner.
  • Various communication checkpoints have been established for both complainants and respondents to provide regular updates as the complaint progresses through to resolution.
  • The definition of sexual harassment under the policy has been updated to include gender-based discrimination or insults.
  • When requested by a complainant, a complaint shall be automatically subject to a formal investigation.

The Provincial Government is also reviewing the proposed federal changes under Bill C-65, an Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence) and will work with stakeholders to determine what changes may be required to any provincial legislation.

Quotes
“Every person has a right to feel safe and valued in the workplace. Our government is not tolerant of behavior that suggests otherwise. We are fully supportive of creating an environment where anyone can come forward and have their voice heard. This new policy is an important first step as we take measures to ensure safe and healthy workplaces.”
Honourable Dwight Ball
Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

“This is a serious issue. The new Harassment Free Workplace Policy emphasizes the importance of prevention and provides a supportive process for core government employees. This policy will increase accountability for those in authority and will establish an effective process for formal investigations and complaint resolution.” 
Honourable Tom Osborne
Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board
Minister Responsible for the Human Resource Secretariat

“Harassment and violence is not acceptable in any form, in any place.  This progressive policy is important to ensuring we all have a secure and safe workplace.  We all have a role to play in addressing the issue of harassment, and I encourage all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to be part of the solution.”
Honourable Siobhan Coady
Minister Responsible for the Status of Women

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Learn more
Harassment Free Workplace Policy - www.exec.gov.nl.ca/exec/hrs/working_with_us/harassment_free_workplace.html

Rubin Thomlinson Report - www.exec.gov.nl.ca/exec/hrs/pdf/final_hprr.pdf PDF Icon

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Media contacts
Michelle Cannizzaro
Office of the Premier
709-729-3960
michellecannizzaro@gov.nl.ca

Marc Budgell
Finance
709-729-2477, 689-0430
marcbudgell@gov.nl.ca

BACKGROUNDER
Harassment-Free Workplace Policy – Highlights

General
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s updated Harassment Free Workplace Policy will replace government’s existing harassment policy. The new policy will:

  • Promote greater awareness and prevention of workplace harassment in the public service;
  • Increase accountability for all employees;
  • Include an updated definition of sexual harassment to encompass gender-based harassment, in order to increase awareness of what can constitute sexual harassment;
  • Establish timelines throughout the investigation process; and
  • Provide a streamlined complaint resolution process for incidents when they arise.

Harassment-Free Workplace Manager

  • Government has put in place a full-time Harassment-Free Workplace Manager solely dedicated to managing all aspects of the policy and its procedures, including the coordination of harassment investigations;
  • This manager will receive all complaints and will function as an independent facilitator of the resolution process; and
  • The manager will also act as a resource for individuals who have questions or concerns.

Prevention

  • The policy requires all government departments to foster and maintain a respectful work environment;
  • Training on the policy will be mandatory for all employees and management; 
  • Bystanders witnessing incidents of alleged harassment can now report these incidents to the Harassment-Free Workplace Manager; and
  • Departments must also make efforts to re-establish a respectful work environment following allegations of harassment.

Streamlined and Responsive Process

  • A “single point of access” has been established for making complaints under the Policy with all complaints going through the Harassment Free Workplace Manager;
  • Parties are informed of their rights and responsibilities, and have the opportunity to respond throughout the process;
  • Various communication checkpoints have been established for both complainants and respondents to provide regular updates as the complaint progresses through to resolution; and
  • Investigations must be completed within 90 days, with the timeline lengthened in extenuating circumstances only.

Complainant Driven

  • Complaints must be submitted within 12 months following the last incident, but may be extended with reasonable justification;
  • The policy provides four resolution options that inform and empower the complainant to choose what the best possible resolution is for them:
    1. Individual Intervention;
    2. Management Intervention;
    3. Respectful Workplace Division Intervention: or
    4. Investigation
  • The investigation resolution option now includes a step-by-step explanation on what Complainants and Respondents can expect when engaged in the process; and
  • When requested by a complainant, a complaint shall be formally investigated automatically.

Accountability and Transparency

  • Additional staff will be designated within government departments and fully trained along with the current roster of investigators to assist and/or conduct investigations;
  • Failing to respond adequately to harassment is, in itself, a violation of the policy, and is subject to disciplinary action;
  • Timelines, documentation and communication requirements have been set for each stage of the process; and
  • Annual Policy and Procedural compliance monitoring and evaluation requirements.

 

2018 02 23                                                    2:55 p.m.