Backgrounder: Changes to prevent harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces


Legislative amendments
On November 27, 2017, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-65[1], an
Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, which received royal assent on October 25, 2018.

The legislation replaces the legal framework set out in the
Canada Labour Code and related regulations for dealing with harassment and violence. The legislation aims to enhance prevention, protection and support across workplaces in federally regulated private- and public-sector workplaces, including parliamentary workplaces. It defines harassment and violence as “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.”

The approach taken by the Government contributes to ensuring that workplaces are free from all forms of harassment and violence by:

  • covering the full range of unacceptable behaviours ranging from teasing and bullying, to sexual harassment and physical and sexual violence;
  • requiring employers to take concrete action to prevent and protect against harassment and violence in the workplace and effectively respond to incidents when they do occur;
  • requiring that measures be put in place to protect the privacy of employees who report occurrences of harassment and violence in order to encourage potential victims to come forward; and
  • providing employees with the choice of informal resolution processes or neutral, third-party investigations.


Regulatory development process and coming into force
From March to October 2018, the Government held extensive consultations with employers and their representatives, employee representatives, Canadians and other key stakeholders, such as subject matter experts, advocacy groups, Indigenous groups and health and safety representatives.

On July 24, 2018, the Government launched an
online survey and published a discussion paper, which provided a comprehensive overview of the proposed regulatory framework. The feedback received informed the development of proposed regulations, which were published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on April 27, 2019, for a 30‑day consultation period.

The feedback received during the various consultations informed the final
Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations, which were published in Part II of the Canada Gazette on June 24, 2020.

The legislation amended the
Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA) to ensure that the occupational health and safety protections offered under Part II of the Code, including the related regulations, apply to parliamentary workplaces, covered by PESRA, such as the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament. Amendments to PESRA came into force on July 29, 2019.

On January 1, 2021, the legislation and pursuant regulations came into force. The following regulations were also amended:

  • Canada Labour Standards Regulations;
  • Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Regulations;
  • Oil and Gas Occupational Health and Safety Regulations;
  • Coal Mining Occupational Health and Safety Regulations;
  • Aviation Occupational Health and Safety Regulations; and
  • On Board Trains Occupational Safety and Health Regulations.


The way forward: a culture change
The Government recognizes that legislation is not enough to end harassment and violence in the workplace and that a culture change is required in Canadian workplaces.

In order to ensure the Regulations are implemented properly, the Government put in place:

  • educational activities and training tools for employees and employers; and,
  • a toll-free number (1-800-641-4049) to help employees navigate the process and support employers in putting policies and processes in place.

On March 8, 2019, the Government launched the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund to make federally regulated workplaces safer and healthier. Its main objective is to support projects that co-develop sector-specific tools and resources related to harassment and violence prevention, including psychological health and safety, with the goal of: 

  • supporting behavioural changes in the workplace;
  • providing guidance to workers regarding the new harassment and violence regulations; and
  • supporting the co-development and delivery of mandatory training.


Other federal measures addressing harassment and violence in the workplace

  • In Budget 2018, the Government committed:
    • $50.4 million over 5 years, starting in 2018–19, to address sexual harassment in the workplace, including $25.4 million to boost legal aid funding across Canada with a focus on supporting victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
    • $25.0 million over 5 years to be invested to develop a pan-Canadian outreach program to better inform workers, particularly those most vulnerable, about their rights and how they can access services if they experience harassment.
  • On September 1, 2019, changes to federal labour standards came into force, including a new leave for victims of family violence, to help advance the Government’s commitment to address gender-based violence.

Related information
Online resources



  • According to the Federal Jurisdiction Workplace Survey, 295 formal complaints of sexual harassment were brought to the attention of the employer in 2015. About 80% of the complaints were from women. There were 1,601 reported incidents of violence in 2015, with 60% of injured or targeted employees being men.

News releases


[1] Starting in 2018–19, $34.9 million over 5 years, with $7.4 million per year ongoing, were committed to support the introduction of Bill C-65. Of this, $3.5 million annually were dedicated to the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund.

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