Workers Health & Safety Centre

Harassment at work rising, marginalized groups suffering most

Newly published Statistics Canada data analysis exploring harassment and sexual assault at work suggests many employers are not meeting their legal duty to protect workers. 
This recently published analysis offers a new, deeper look at the experiences of Canadian workers from the 2020 survey on sexual misconduct at work, including marginalized groups and young workers.
Overall, nearly three in 10 women and two in 10 men reported experiencing harassment or sexual assault at work in the 12 months prior to the survey. This is a troubling upward trend when compared to data collected by Statistics Canada (Stats Can) in 2016 which found two in ten women and one of every eight men reported experiencing harassment at work in the past year.

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Sexualized harassment most prominent

Inappropriate sexualized behaviour was the most prominent type of harassment reported with 44 per cent of women and 29 per cent of men reporting such incidents. According to Stats Can, inappropriate sexualized behaviour includes inappropriate verbal and non-verbal communication, behaviour related to sexually explicit materials, and unwanted physical contact or suggested sexual relations. Thirteen per cent of women also reported experiencing a sexual assault at work, while three per cent of men reported the same.
This most recent statistical analysis was a collaboration between Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics and Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, both divisions of Statistics Canada. Beyond gender, they sought to better understand who was suffering this harassment.  

Marginalized groups suffering more

Like previous Canadian research, this new data analysis indicates a higher proportion of people facing harassment at work are from marginalized groups including disabled workers and those identifying as indigenous, lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). Leading the suffering are LGB women with three quarters reporting being harassed or sexually assaulted at work. Half of men identifying as LGB reported experiencing harassment or sexual assault at work. Sixty per cent of women in this marginalized group and 40 per cent of men say their experience occurred in the last 12 months.
Young workers, those under 35, are also suffering higher rates of harassment compared to older working Canadians, including inappropriate sexualized and discriminatory behaviour, along with sexual assaults. Women aged 25 to 34 led the way with 60 per cent reporting experiencing harassment and almost 40 per cent reporting it in the 12 months prior to being surveyed. Four in 10 men in this same age group reported experiencing harassment with almost one in four saying it occurred in the past year.

WHSC training for prevention and compliance 

This most recent data comes on the heels of a scathing 2022 National Survey on Harassment and Violence at Work in Canada finding an epidemic of harassment and violence on the job with most saying little is being done to address it.
The report recommended a comprehensive approach to prevent all forms of workplace violence and harassment, with all levels of government, employers and unions alike committing to action. In real terms this means strengthening laws, negotiating collective agreement language, creating more responsive workplace policies and programs, improving working conditions, raising awareness and offering better training.
Currently, Ontario employers must develop and implement policies and program(s), including measures and procedures for reporting and investigating, and providing all workers with information and instruction on the content of these. The law also requires measures to address domestic violence as a potential source of workplace violence.

Workers Health & Safety Centre’s three-hour Workplace Violence and Harassment training is designed to help workplaces meet these legal requirements by gaining the knowledge and skill needed to develop and post written policies with respect to workplace violence and harassment, conduct a risk assessment, develop a workplace violence and harassment program to properly address the risks and train workers on these workplace policies and programs.

REGISTER for Workplace Violence and Harassment Training now

Don’t see a date that works for you, wish to discuss onsite violence and harassment training or just a have a question, connect with a training services representative in your area.

Related resources:
Gender results framework: A new data table on workplace harassment (Statistics Canada)
Harassment in Canadian workplaces (Statistics Canada 2016)
Workplace violence, harassment widespread but unaddressed, report  
Harassment and Violence in Canadian Workplaces: It’s [Not] Part of the Job (2022 National Survey)
WHSC workplace violence resources

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