Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We at CPHR Canada are honoured to appear before your committee for the study of Bill C-65. CPHR Canada is a group of human resources associations across Canada. CPHR Canada is the national voice on the enhancement and promotion of the human resources profession. With an established and credible designation, CPHR Canada works on national issues related to the profession and is proactively positioning the national human resources agenda on the international stage.
In October 2016, the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations, its nine provincial associations and three affiliated territorial associations chose a new name and introduced a new Canadian designation, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources, or CPHR. Only one designation—CPHR—is used for the standard of quality, in line with the model adopted by many other professions and professional designations in human resources around the world.
Our 27,000 members ensure the integration, development and well-being of workers, and help employers of all sizes meet the challenges of today's and tomorrow's labour market, challenges such as an aging workforce and the need to attract skilled workers, significant technological changes and an increasing regulatory burden. We are on the front lines of dealing with complaints of harassment and violence in the workplace. As such, we are ideally placed to assist parliamentarians on many strategic issues, including employment insurance reform, access to high-quality job training for all Canadian workers, pay equity, and of course, the features of Bill C-65.
Bullying, harassment, and sexual violence have no place in today's workplace, yet according to a survey conducted for the federal government, 10% of respondents said that harassment is common in the workplace, and 44% said that while it is not frequent, it happens. Most respondents agreed that incidents are under-reported and often dealt with ineffectively. According to our own data collected in my own province of Quebec, 60% of organizations surveyed reported receiving complaints related to harassment.
Obviously, this cannot continue. The issues underlying bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace, including challenges faced by victims in the complaint process, have a direct impact on mental health, absenteeism, and loss of productivity. Bill C-65 is long overdue. In our submission, we will address three main issues: definition and implications for performance management, investigation of complaints, and prevention of harassment and violence through culture change.
We would like first to address the definition of bullying, harassment, and violence. We also believe that Bill C-65 should define workplace bullying, harassment, and violence, and we are pleased to learn that the minister is open to amendments in this respect. Definitions would provide clarity and direction to employers, employees, and the courts in understanding the legislator's intent. There are examples in provincial legislation that could guide the legislators for the federal sector. Recommendations from the standing committee would be invaluable in this respect, and we would be pleased to review them prior to their adoption.
One aspect that is of concern to members of CPHR Canada relates to issues surrounding performance management. Any definition must recognize that reasonable performance management is not harassment. An employee may feel anxious and stressed when receiving performance feedback or a written warning, a performance improvement plan, or progressive discipline. Anxiety and stress can obviously lead to illness, but it would be a tremendous burden on employers should they face harassment and bullying claims because they are properly managing performance. In that respect, we recommend that reasonable performance management be explicitly recognized in defining harassment, and that reference to illness be more clearly linked with events related to harassment, violence, and workplace safety.
Other key aspects of the bill of particular interest to HR professionals are the provisions relating to the investigation.
We are particularly concerned about the complaint process when complaints are filed against supervisors. Right now, the bill does not clearly set out whether an alternative will be available to someone who would like to make a complaint when the alleged harasser is their supervisor. This mechanism must absolutely be included if the intent of the legislation is to make reporting easier. When someone wants to make a complaint, if the first step is to go to their supervisor when the supervisor or the supervisor's supervisor is the subject of the complaint, it is highly likely that the complaint mechanism will not be effective. This is especially true for small organizations.
We urge you to clarify this aspect and provide an alternative for cases where the complaint is directed to the supervisor or the employer. Any disclosure process must be clear, simple and impartial, and include people working for small organizations.
We strongly support that any investigation relating to a complaint of harassment or violence must be assigned to an individual who is competent to do so. It is our recommendation that regulations need to be prescriptive in defining who is authorized to conduct investigations. Issues such as fairness, impartiality, and privacy are crucial components. Done badly, investigations can cause even greater damage to workplace relations.
Investigations must be performed by trained professionals who are subject to a code of ethics and rules of professional conduct and, in some instances, bound by professional secrecy.
A final word on investigations is that we strongly urge that regulations provide for what might be included in an investigator's report. Beyond a finding of whether there was bullying, harassment, or violence in the workplace, the investigator could, or actually should, make recommendations on practices that need to change or be initiated within the organization. The report should also create an obligation to abide by the recommendations within a set time frame. This approach would send a very clear signal that the federal government is serious about addressing bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace.
I would like to turn to our third and final point, which is the issue of prevention.
The #MeToo movement has created a widespread public conversation on bullying, harassment, and violence. The movement has created an environment where individuals feel safer to lodge complaints and expect these complaints to be dealt with, but each time this happens, high personal and business costs result and productivity suffers. We need to do better.
Culture change is required in Canadian workplaces to prevent bullying, harassment, and violence. The government has committed to put in place supports such as awareness-building on harassment and violence, education and training tools for employees and employers, and direct support to help employees navigate the process and support employers in putting in place policies and processes. We look forward to hearing further details. We submit that support for training, especially in small and medium-sized organizations, is necessary.
Our members, the professionals who are responsible for policies, training, and prevention of bullying, harassment, and violence in the workplace, are keenly aware that culture change is required. The following key aspects, we believe, are necessary in every workplace to drive a change of culture: communicating regularly with employees; ensuring supervisors and managers apply policy; disciplinary management, if necessary, to correct wrongdoing; education and training workshops to facilitate changing attitudes and behaviour; and finally, support and training for managers.
In closing, we would like to reiterate our appreciation for the opportunity to participate in these hearings. We look forward to working with you on the next steps.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.