How are you preparing for Bill 168 — Ontario’s new workplace violence and harassment law?

By Stuart Rudner

As employers are well aware, Bill 168 — Ontario’s new workplace violence and harassment legislation —will come into force in June of this year. Unlike most new pieces of legislation impacting human resources, Bill 168 creates numerous obligations on the part of employers. In other words, it will not be wise for organizations to simply sit back and wait to see how things play out, or plan to respond if and when an issue arises. This piece of legislation requires action, and provides for penalties in the absence thereof.

Recent years have seen an increased focus on safety at work. Bill 168 takes the existing rules a step further by, among other things, addressing the potential for workplace violence. The impetus for this change was largely the Hotel Dieu case, in which a registered nurse in Windsor, Ont., was murdered by a colleague and former lover while carrying out her duties. A subsequent report identified no less than 16 risk factors that existed and numerous missed opportunities for intervention.

With this background, perhaps it’s not surprising Bill 168 requires that employers take steps in order to protect employees from, among other things, workplace violence. However, many are concerned about the requirements Bill 168 seems to impose, including the preparation of risk assessments, consideration of the potential for domestic violence, and the duty to disseminate personal information regarding those with a history of violent behaviour. It remains to be seen how some of these obligations will be reconciled with existing privacy laws.

Many employers I’ve spoken with are concerned about the lengths to which Bill 168 goes. In the hope of stimulating discussion, I invite readers to comment on Bill 168 in this blog. In particular, I would be interested in hearing whether people feel Bill 168 goes too far, or not far enough, in the protection of employees.

I would also welcome comments regarding the bill’s impact upon privacy laws, employee relations and employee morale. Finally, it would be interesting to hear how readers intend to comply with the various requirements of Bill 168.

What are your thoughts? What are you doing to prepare for Bill 168? Join the conversation by adding a comment.

 Stuart Rudner is a partner in Miller Thomson’s labour and employment group in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 595-8672 or srudner@millerthomson.com.

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