Archived - Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution

Establishes the responsibility of deputy heads to protect employees from harassment beyond the requirement of the Canadian Human Rights Act by requiring that deputy heads respond to all forms of harassment.
Date modified: 2020-12-22

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The policy was rescinded on April 1, 2020 and replaced by Directive on the Prevention and Resolution of Workplace Harassment and Violence

1 Effective Date

1.1 This policy takes effect on October 1st, 2012.

1.2 This policy replaces the following:

  • Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace (2001)

2 Application

2.1 This policy applies to the core public administration which includes the organizations named in Schedule I and the other portions of the federal public administration named in Schedule IV of the Financial Administration Act unless excluded by specific acts, regulations or Orders in Council.

2.2 The provisions in sections 6.2.2, 6.2.3 and 7 relating to the role of the Treasury Board Secretariat in monitoring compliance and directing measures to be taken in response to non-compliance do not apply with respect to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The deputy heads of these organizations are solely responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with this policy within their organizations, as well as for responding to cases of non-compliance in accordance with any Treasury Board instruments providing principles and guidance on the management of compliance.

2.3 The scope of this policy applies to employee behaviour in the workplace or at any location or any event related to work, including while:

  • On travel status,
  • At a conference where the attendance is sponsored by the employer,
  • At employer sponsored training activities/information sessions, and
  • At employer sponsored events, including social events.

3 Context

3.1 The values of the public sector uphold the practice of respect, fairness and courtesy and the importance of demonstrating human dignity within professional relationships. These are also core components of a fair, supportive and ethical workplace as envisaged in the Policy Framework for People Management and the Workplace Policy (under development). Success in the practice of these values will foster a safe and healthy workplace free from harassment. When allowed to persist, harassment has adverse effects on the mental health and engagement of employees and on the quality of their work. In a complex and demanding work environment that brings together diverse people and in which collaboration is essential to success, misunderstandings and interpersonal conflicts are inevitable. The organizational culture has an influence on how colleagues interact with one another, and should therefore promote the awareness and practice of good communication and effective interpersonal skills. The ongoing effort to demonstrate respect is everyone's personal responsibility.

Interactions between supervisors and subordinates may be especially sensitive because of the power differential they embody. Exercising the normal supervisory functions such as assigning and appraising work is not harassment, but how such functions are exercised can risk giving rise to the potential for harassment or perceptions of harassment.

Inevitably, there will be occasional instances of conduct that are incompatible with public sector values, and where informal requests for change in behaviours do not succeed. For such situations, a more formal process remains necessary. This policy and the associated Directive on the Harassment Complaint Process should be read in the spirit that early, informal, and less bureaucratic approaches are to be sought, even once a formal process has been engaged.

3.2 This policy stresses the responsibility of deputy heads to protect employees from harassment beyond the requirement of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which forbids harassment on prohibited grounds of discrimination, by requiring deputy heads to act on all forms of harassment. It also responds to the Canada Labour Code Part II and the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations Part XX-Violence Prevention in the Work Place, that require every employer to provide employees with a safe, healthy, and violence-free work environment and dedicate sufficient attention, resources and time to address factors that contribute to workplace violence including bullying, teasing and other aggressive or abusive behaviours. Harassment is a factor that can contribute to the risk of workplace violence and must be promptly and adequately addressed.

3.3 Deputy heads have the responsibility and are accountable for the establishment and maintenance of a respectful and harassment-free workplace and for the prompt resolution of related complaints. This policy provides deputy heads with strategic direction to prevent and manage harassment in the context of creating wide-ranging support for a safe and respectful workplace. It intends to give enough flexibility for tailoring mechanisms and practices to the distinctive operational needs and culture of each organization. Minimum requirements and expectations of all organizations are stipulated in this policy and the associated directive.

3.4 This policy is issued pursuant to Sections 7 and 11.1 of the Financial Administration Act.

3.5 This policy should be read in conjunction with the following:

3.6 Additional mandatory requirements are set out in the:

4 Definitions

For definitions to be used in the interpretation of this policy refer to Appendix A.

5 Policy Statement

5.1 Objective

The objective of this policy is to provide deputy heads with strategic directions and set out expected results to foster a respectful workplace and address potential situations of harassment.

5.2 Expected results

The expected results of this policy are that:

5.2.1 Employees have been given ample opportunity to learn about harassment prevention strategies, the harassment complaint process and their right to a harassment free workplace and there are effective incentives for employees and managers to demonstrate a high level of respect for people.

5.2.2 Employees have access to an effective, timely and confidential[1] harassment resolution process without fear of reprisal, either through informal resolution or a formal harassment complaint process or both;

5.2.3 Employees perceive their work environment as generally fair and respectful.

5.2.4 There is an enhanced collaborative union-management approach on harassment.

6 Policy Requirements

6.1 Deputy heads are responsible for:

6.1.1 Ensuring that preventive activities are in place to foster a harassment-free workplace. These include informing employees about the employer's commitment to fostering a harassment-free workplace and ensuring that results are achieved in a manner that respects employees. Other possible preventive activities are suggested in the Definitions Section- Appendix A.

6.1.2 Optimizing the use of the informal resolution processes and ensuring that those who are involved in managing and resolving harassment complaints have the required competencies, including informal conflict resolution skills.

6.1.3 Regularly consulting with bargaining agents, informal conflict resolution practitioners and other stakeholders on the application of the Directive on the Harassment Complaint Process.

6.1.4 Designating an official or officials for the application of the Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution and the Directive on the Harassment Complaint Process.

6.2 Monitoring and reporting requirements

6.2.1 Within organizations

Deputy heads are responsible for monitoring compliance with this policy and its associated directive within their organizations.

6.2.2 By organizations

The achievement of expected results by deputy heads will be assessed by Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (TBS/OCHRO) through data collection mechanisms such as the Public Service Employee Survey and the Management Accountability Framework.

Organizations may be required to provide additional information considered necessary for assessing compliance. For example, TBS/OCHRO may conduct focus groups with representatives of identified organizations, in partnership with the bargaining agents, to better understand challenges in organizations with relatively poor results.

6.2.3 Government-wide

TBS/OCHRO is responsible for reviewing this policy and its effectiveness at the five-year mark of implementation.

7 Consequences

7.1 Deputy heads are responsible for taking corrective measures when significant issues arise regarding policy compliance. When corrective action is not implemented satisfactorily or in a timely manner, the Chief Human Resources Officer may request that deputy heads take corrective actions and report back on the outcome. Non-compliance with this policy or failure to take actions requested by the Chief Human Resources Officer may result in Treasury Board taking corrective actions.

7.2 For a range of consequences of non-compliance, please refer to the Framework for the Management of Compliance.

8 Roles and responsibilities of government organizations

8.1 In addition to its monitoring role, TBS/OCHRO assists the designated officials with the implementation and application of this policy through the provision of advice and the issuance of related administrative guidelines and tools.

9 References

10 Enquiries

For interpretation of this policy, departmental officials should contact TBS Public Enquiries. Employees should direct enquiries about this policy to their responsible departmental officials.

Appendix A – Definitions

harassment (harcèlement)

improper conduct by an individual, that is directed at and offensive to another individual in the workplace, including at any event or any location related to work, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It also includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act (i.e. based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and pardoned conviction).

Harassment is normally a series of incidents but can be one severe incident which has a lasting impact on the individual.

harassment prevention activities (activités de prévention du harcèlement)

activities which aim to reduce the potential for harassment, or perceptions of harassment in the workplace. These may include:

  • communicating to all employees the informal and formal processes available to them to resolve issues related to harassment;
  • communicating to all employees the departmental resources available such as a harassment prevention advisors, union representatives, Employee Assistance Program counsellors, and informal conflict resolution practitioners;
  • informing employees about the employer's commitment to a respectful workplace;
  • delivering workshops on harassment prevention, anger management, meaningful conversations, collaborative problem solving, etc.;
  • developing communication tools;
  • identifying risk factors;
  • managing conflicts promptly;
  • promoting a culture of self-awareness, collaboration and respect; for example, putting in place 360-degree feedback mechanisms or comparable processes to ensure that results are achieved in a manner that respects employees.
  • providing appropriate training and tools to those who are involved in managing and resolving harassment complaints;
  • staying vigilant to the workplace climate.
informal resolution process (processus de résolution informel)

a confidential and voluntary collaborative problem-solving approach such as face to face conversation, conflict coaching, facilitated discussion or mediation that has the advantage of addressing the parties' needs, concerns and mutual interests. Informal resolution processes are also commonly called interest based conflict resolution, Informal Conflict Management System (ICMS) and alternative dispute resolution.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the President of the Treasury Board, 2017,
ISBN: 978-0-660-09916-3

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