Make sure the employer carries out their responsibilities

It is the employer’s legal responsibility to ensure that work is safe and healthy. In most, if not all, jurisdictions, employers are legally required to have a violence and harassment prevention policy in place. Some jurisdictions require that these policies reference sexual violence and harassment. 

Regardless of legislation, the union should check to see if there is an existing violence and harassment prevention policy in the workplace and determine if it adequately addresses sexual violence. Your health and safety committee may have helpful resources.

A workplace violence prevention policy should include a general statement indicating that the employer shall provide a workplace free of sexual violence.

Negotiate and enforce collective agreement language

The union bargains and enforces the collective agreement. Sometimes, locals can influence employer policies, but too often, unions are not consulted.  We can bargain to make sure the collective agreement includes a clear definition of workplace sexual violence, prevention strategies, and a reporting and investigation process.

Language to address workplace sexual violence, along with procedures and training, can help create a safe and healthy workplace that thrives on respect and helps workers understand their rights, roles and responsibilities.  

The goal of effective contract language should be to prevent and respond to instances of workplace sexual violence and to support survivors. It should be easy for members to report incidents of workplace sexual violence. Accountability and transparency are important, and prevention should be the goal.

There have also been some legislative changes by provincial and federal governments that include paid leave for survivors of sexual violence. Locals have negotiated paid leave language and other accommodations in their collective agreements.

Any contract language that locals create can also inform policies that employers create.