The Time Has Come for Harassment and Violence-Free Workplaces

By Anthony Ariganello, CPHR

Bullying, harassment and sexual violence have no place in today’s workplace. Yet, according to a survey conducted for the federal government:10 per cent of respondents say harassment is common in the workplace; 44 per cent say while not frequent, it happens. Most respondents agreed that incidents are under-reported and often dealt with ineffectively. Our own data collected in Québec shows that 60 per cent of organizations surveyed received complaints related to harassment.

This cannot continue. The issues underlying bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace, including challenges faced by victims in the complaints process, have a direct impact on mental health, absenteeism and loss of productivity. How can Canadians contribute to the organizations that employ them if they don’t feel safe?

The federal government is showing leadership with the introduction of Bill C-65 that will address ways to deal with bullying, harassment and violence. Members of Parliament and Senators that will be asked to vote on the legislation will be themselves subject to Bill C-65. The long-standing “whisper culture” will be no more.

As the legislation makes its way through Parliament, we urge MPs and Senators to improve Bill C-65 with respect to investigation of complaints to ensure the process is clear, simple and impartial and performed by qualified, independent professionals. We are concerned that victims feel supported particularly when complaints are launched against supervisors and employers – especially in smaller workplaces like those on “the Hill”.

The #metoo movement has created a widespread, public conversation on bullying, harassment and violence. The movement has created an environment where individuals feel safer to lodge complaints and expect these complaints to be dealt with. But each time this happens, high personal and business costs result and productivity suffers. We need to do better.

As professionals who are on the front lines and most likely to deal with complaints of bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace, we have a vested interest in the success of Bill C-65. And, while organizations touched by Bill C-65 may only represent a fraction of Canada’s workplaces, it is tone-at-the-top that matters. The federal government is sending a strong message – one that all Canadian employers should heed.

Anthony Ariganello is president & CEO of CPHR BC & Yukon and CPHR Canada.

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