Workers Health & Safety Centre

Sexual harassment common in Canadian workplaces

Sexual harassment common in Canadian workplaces
More than one million Canadians have been sexually harassed at work in the last 24 months, according to a recent survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI).
Almost 30 per cent of Canadian adults surveyed reported being sexually harassed at work while 14 per cent said they have experienced unwanted sexual touching or other contact at work (there was significant overlap of those experiencing both).
Three-quarters of those who reported experiencing sexual harassment at work said it happened more than once. One in four reported it happening more than five times. In the case of unwanted contact, almost 70 per cent said it happened more than once with almost 20 per cent saying it happened more than five times.
The survey also found significant gender differences with women almost four times as likely to experience harassment and twice as likely to report unwanted contact.
Rarely reported to employers
The overwhelming majority of those who reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or unwanted contact never reported the behaviour to their employer. The most common reason given was a preference to deal with it on their own. Though the majority of non-reporting related to being embarrassed or scared. For instance: 
  • they didn’t think the employer would respond well,
  • they were afraid they might lose their job, 
  • they felt it might hurt their career, and
  • they felt no one would believe them.

For those who chose to report an incident to their employer, 60 per cent said their employer was either unresponsive or dismissive or did not take any concrete action.
Legislated duties for employers
Here in Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) places significant duties on employers relating to harassment, including that of a sexual nature. Chief among these obligations is the requirement to develop and implement a workplace harassment policy and program. To this end the employer must also provide all workers with information and instruction on the content of this policy and the hazard control measures and other procedures outlined in the program designed to implement the policy.
For our part, the WHSC offers a three-hour Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention training program designed to help prepare workplaces to better understand workplace violence, harassment and bullying and to fully comply with the workplace prevention obligations required under the Act. The WHSC also offers compliance checklists for both employers and workers and fact sheets on workplace violence, harassment and bullying. 
Want to access the WHSC violence and harassment resources?
For additional information contact the WHSC and ask to speak with a training services representative. 

Call:    1-888-869-7950
Want to read more about the Angus Reid Institute sexual harassment survey?