Law Society Launches Respectful Workplace Model Policy

November 1, 2019

The Law Society of Alberta is pleased to provide a Respectful Workplace Model Policy that your firm or organization is encouraged to adapt and use. The purpose of any Respectful Workplace policy is to explain what is meant by discrimination, harassment, and violence, and to make workplaces safe for all employees. A Respectful Workplace policy also sets into motion the development and review of procedures to report discrimination or harassment without fear of retaliation.

In addition to the model policy, we are developing guides for employees and employers to further understand the model policy. The employee guide explains how the policy protects employees when they experience discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace. It also provides additional resources for employees to seek assistance. The employer guide explains how to implement the model policy and why it’s important. These guides will be released shortly.

We developed the Respectful Workplace Model Policy in response to two important considerations: recent changes to legislation governing workplaces, and discrimination and harassment issues revealed in our recent articling survey results report.

Legislative Changes

In June 2018, changes to Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act expanded the definition of health and safety to include psychological and social well-being. There is an emphasis on employers having measures in place for prevention and reporting of harassment and violence. Law firms and legal organizations are included in the definition of employer in the Act and must comply with the new measures.

The Act requires law firms and legal organizations to have comprehensive, up-to-date and effective equity policies that address harassment and violence in the workplace. We understand that developing these policies takes a lot of research and resources. We’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you in the Respectful Workplace Model Policy and upcoming guides.

Articling Survey Results Report

The importance and timeliness of the Respectful Workplace Model Policy is underscored by our recent articling survey results report. The report found that one third of articling students reported discrimination or harassment during recruitment or articling. Most articling students and young lawyers conveyed that they were generally unaware of resources available to assist with issues of discrimination and harassment. In contrast, many principals, mentors and recruiters believed resources were readily available. This gap suggests that while many firms may already have policies in place, they are either not well known, not well used or simply not trusted.

We’re trying to make sure that employees and employers have the right tools in place to deal with discrimination and harassment issues. In addition to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, lawyers are held to an even high standard under the Code of Conduct.

Want to find out more?

Watch the recorded version of the Respectful Workplace Model Policy Webinar.

Interested in a presentation about this policy at your firm or organization? Send us an email.