Survey looks for answers as issues of violence and harassment ‘take on new urgency during COVID-19’
Looking to gauge the severity of violence and harassment in Canada’s workplaces – and what kind of response is being given – researchers have launched a national survey.
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) will be working in partnership with the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) at Western University and a researcher at the University of Toronto to collect and analyze information on sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. The survey is funded by the government of Canada’s Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund.
The federal government has initiated significant amendments to the Canada Labour Code through Bill C-65 and its Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations.
“The issue of violence and harassment at work has taken on new urgency during COVID-19,” says Hassan Yussuff, president of the CLC. “Workers facing violence and harassment at work may be feeling more isolated and more fearful of repercussions for speaking out, given the state of the job market. The rise in the numbers of people working from home also means that violence is inescapable for those living with their abusers.”
The survey will look at the experience of both unionized and non-unionized workers in an attempt to uncover why employees choose to report or not report, and whether there is a difference between their experiences. It will run until April 2021.
“The MeToo movement is telling us a lot about how frequent and how damaging workplace sexual harassment is. Now we need to know why it has continued unabated for so long,” says Barb MacQuarrie, community director at CREVAWC.
“Why don’t those who experience it report? What happens after they do report? This survey will give us the data we need to have serious conversations with policy makers, both governmental and at the workplace level about what we need to do next.”
Since the pandemic started a few months ago, there have been alarming reports of violence towards frontline workers. This has been reported in Canada, but also in other countries around the world such as the US, Mexico and India.
In 2018, an Angus Reid Institute found that over half of Canadian women have experienced workplace sexual harassment during their lifetime and 89 per cent of women reported having taken steps to avoid unwanted sexual advances at work.
Yukon, British Columbia and Manitoba have all started efforts to provide leaves for those suffering from violence and harassment.
Also, as many healthcare workers across Canada battle the coronavirus outbreak, a second health crisis may emerge that could debilitate that workforce: moral injury, an issue that’s really like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says one expert.