According to a Léger survey in October 2017, close to one women out of two in Quebec have been sexually harassed, 40% of them at work.
The recent public denunciations of sexual harassment have accentuated the need to combat this problem, especially in the professional environment. Under the recently-adopted Bill C-65, all employers are obliged to develop a policy to prevent and handle any cases of harassment. What should such a policy consist of?
Remove any ambiguity
According to Natalie Gareau, director general of Scripta Légal, the goal of such a policy is “to eliminate grey areas as much as possible, so that all workers are reading the same way what constitutes an unacceptable gesture, whether they are the authors, victims or witnesses.”
Provide a base document
Specializing in customized legal documents, Scripta Légal is initiating the online launch of a “Policy on workplace harassment and violence.” Since early March, SMEs in Quebec have been able to freely download a customizable template. “The test removes the blur; it lists in black and white the behaviours and remarks that undermine the integrity of a person at work. Then it encourages and assists the employee to report any act of this nature,” explains Natalie Gareau.
Response remains feeble
According to the director, compared with large companies, setting out a clear policy against harassment is a relatively recent phenomenon for Quebec SMEs. Natalie Gareau laments their rather feeble reaction. “Our unprecedented offer does not yet seem to have had the expected success. It’s surprising and disappointing. Too many managers may mistakenly imagine that cases of harassment only happen elsewhere, that it is expensive and perilous to broach this subject.”
Beneficial for all
“However, it’s quite the opposite,” she insists. The existence of a base document will improve prevention and facilitate management of cases of sexual and/or psychological harassment. “A responsible and forward-thinking employer has every incentive to offer its employees the comfort of a healthy work environment. And a clearly established policy is already less to worry about for the employer itself.” According to Natalie Gareau, it would be regrettable if SMEs do not take more initiatives before the legal obligation comes about to update their behaviour policy.