Workplace Harassment Statistics in Canada
Despite the many progressive changes that took place in the workforce over the past few decades, there are still many cases of workplace harassment that often go unchecked. In Canada, harassment in the workplace is defined as unwelcome or inappropriate comments, actions, or general conducting stemming from another individual.
In can include verbal harassment, acting in a way that humiliates a colleague, threats, physical violence and unwanted sexual attention and harassment. This type of conduct in the workplace can have many serious impacts, like eroding an employee’s mental well-being, creating strong conflicts in the work place, causing high employee turnover, and fostering a toxic workplace environment.
There are many measures that companies take to limit harassment, such as implementing a code of ethics and workplace standards that all employees must abide by. The human resources department also oversees employee complaints and leads the employee training on workplace behavioural standards. Essentially, most companies have a “zero tolerance of harassment in the workplace”, though these instances often occur despite the measures put in place. An employment lawyer Toronto can represent those who have been harassed in the workplace, ensuring their legal rights are protected.
Harassment can remain unchecked if it originates from customers or clients, who do not abide by workplace harassment standards. Additionally, a report by Statistics Canada found that workers in the healthcare industry are more disproportionately affected by workplace harassment than any other industry. The harassment largely comes from patients and the general public.
This report will explore harassment in the workplace in Canada and how healthcare professionals are the most at risk for abusive behaviours.
Workplace Harassment in Canada
According to Statistics Canada’s “Insights on Canadian Society: Harassment in Canadian Workplaces” report, women are most often impacted by workplace harassment. They represent the majority of cases in all types of harassment except for “threats to person” where the instances are equal amongst men and women (refer to Exhibit 1 for the full breakdown).
The report used data from the General Social Survey on Canadians at Work and Home (GSS). It was released in 2018, representing a broader survey of working individuals in 2017 between the ages of 15 and 64. The biggest finding of the survey was that 19 percent of women reported any kind of harassment in the workplace, whereas 13 percent of men reported harassment.
Harassment in the Canadian Workplace
To better understand the issue of harassment in the workplace in Canada, it is crucial to know where these instances originate from. According to the survey, harassing behaviour from clients and customers takes up the most considerable portion of cases with 52.9 percent of women receiving harassment from clients compared to 42.4 percent of men.
This is likely because customers and clients are not held as accountable to workplace standards as fellow colleagues would be. That said, fellow colleagues are not off the hook: supervisors or managers and peers or colleagues make up around 30 percent of the cases each for both men and women (refer to Exhibit 2).
Sources of Harassment in the Canadian Workplace
Another finding that Statistic’s Canada found was that employees working in healthcare-related fields (such as nursing and medical doctor fields) were more impacted by harassing behaviour than any other industry with the report rate being at 23 percent. For those in the healthcare sector, women were more often affected by harassment in the workplace than men, with women reporting 27 percent of instances and men reporting 21 percent of cases.
A Lexology report called “Harassment and Violence in Health Care: Understanding the Setting” pointed out a few reasons why healthcare workers tend to be more frequently targeted by harassers. The most plausible explanation made by the report is that the hospital is a very unique work environment where tensions are always high. Nurses are often in direct contact with patients. Some of them suffer from mental illness or have recently experienced a stressful trauma.
Even when healthcare practitioners are not engaged with disagreeable or violent patients, the long wait times in Canadian hospitals can encourage hostility from hospital visitors. When tensions are high and mental illness also plays a factor, physical and verbal assaults can become more common in a hospital setting.
Additionally, a 2017 study called “Assaulted and Unheard: Violence Against Healthcare Staff” published in the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy explored the environment of the healthcare workplace. Since most registered nursing roles were taken up by women, the study found that nurses were more commonly impacted by sexual harassment.
The MeToo era distinctly outlined how women faced harassment in the workplace and went silent for a long time. In this report, it was found that many women remained silent because of poor communication in the workplace, a “normalization of violence” and a threat of reprisal for reporting these instances or speaking of them publicly.
Why Harassment is Happening
In addition to pointing out the issues of harassment in the Canadian workplace, this report also went into more detail to determine which workplaces dealing in the healthcare industry were disproportionately affected by harassment. It explored some of the reasons other investigators had as to why this was happening.
When workplace harassment goes unchecked, it allows a toxic working environment to fester. It will begin impacting the mental well-being of employees. Harassment leads to poor performance at the workplace, higher employee turnover and increased instances of stress or medical leave.
This is why the government and individual workplaces need to enforce workplace safety and conduct standards to ensure less animosity amongst employees and that the victims of harassment feel as though they can come forward and report their experiences to the human resources department. The only way that harassment can be dealt with is if the problems are effectively identified and lessened.