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N.L. government’s anti-harassment policy includes required training

Premier Dwight Ball provides an update on the new acute hospital during a press conference on the 10th floor of the Sir Richard Squires Building on Friday morning.
Premier Dwight Ball - Dave Kearsey

New reporting requirements, response timelines take effect June 1

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will have its new Harassment-Free Workplace Policy in effect June 1, with public employees to hear more in the interim.

There will be mandatory training on the policy, and compliance will be audited each year by a harassment-free-workplace manager.

That individual will also be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the implementation and ongoing response to harassment complaints, including the need for administrators to meet a 90-day timeline for formal investigations.

In addition to the oversight position, more senior staff are being given harassment complaint investigation training, to act as added support within the different departments.

The required documentation relating to complaints has been increased, with new timelines for communication throughout an investigation or informal resolution process (it will be up to the person making the complaint when and if it moves to a formal investigation process, as opposed to internal meetings and conflict resolution).

RELATED STORY:
Long road to new N.L. harassment policy

The definition of harassment has been updated, including gender-based insults along with the previous list, including things like unwanted touching and displaying sexually suggestive material.

Bystander reports can now be filed by anyone witnessing potential harassment, to improve overall reporting.

Failure to respond to harassment complaints is now, in itself, a violation of the government’s standing policy.

Anonymous complaints will not be accepted, with officials citing the added difficulty in trying to investigate such complaints.

Complaints are required to be submitted within 12 months of the last related incident, but extensions to that deadline are possible, if approved by the harassment-free-workplace manager.

“Conversations are the first step in making actions happen. Silence is never the answer,” said Premier Dwight Ball, speaking to reporters Friday, along with Tom Osborne, the minister responsible for the Human Resources Secretariat, and Siobhan Coady, minister responsible for the status of women.

“(The new policy) will increase accountability for those in authority and will improve our processes for complaint resolution and formal investigations,” Osborne said.

He said it responds to recommendations from the Rubin Thomlinson LLP report — following a review of existing policy and practice — of 2015 and incorporates best practices.

In addition to the policy, Osborne said, work is ongoing on a new code of conduct for employees, and his hope is to have it available for when the harassment policy comes into effect in June.

The premier said government leaders are watching to see what happens with proposed changes to the federal Canadian Labour Code, while also reviewing relevant provincial legislation.

“Violence and harassment are not acceptable in any form, at any time or in any place,” Coady said, adding the new internal policy of government adds to broader anti-violence efforts.

The government has provided the new policy and related procedures online, through the Human Resources Secretariat.

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Related link:
The Harassment-Free Workplace Policy

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