Like all other workplaces in the province, farms will come under the workplace harassment regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act on Canada Day.
It is a move that has the full support of the Island’s two general farm organizations.
Executive director of the PEI Federation of Agriculture, Robert Godfrey, said his organization has been working to encourage more diversity and inclusion within its membership.
“Nobody wants to go to work under duress or feel they are not respected. Whether it is harassment due to gender or race it is just not acceptable in 2020.”
Doug Campbell, district director of the National Farmers Union agrees.
Mr Campbell said it is important to emphasize the farm is a workplace and “if it is behaviour that is not acceptable in an office, it is not acceptable on the farm either.”
He added it is vital to ensure farm workers feel comfortable and safe in the workplace as the agricultural workplace becomes more diverse.
According to the regulations, “behaviours or comments that might constitute workplace harassment include, but are not limited to; making sexually suggestive remarks or advances; verbal aggression or insults, calling someone derogatory names; threatening a person or repeated occurrences of threats; unwanted gestures or insults, inappropriate jokes, circulating inappropriate images; spreading gossip or rumours; using electronic communication to send threatening or intimidating messages; vandalizing personal belongings; making personal attacks based on someone’s private life and/or personal traits; and/or isolating the worker.”
Mr Godfrey said the federation has long had its own internal harassment policy and it is being reviewed to ensure compliance with the new regulations.
With the farm workplace being more culturally diverse, he said it is important to make sure all employees are respected.
The regulations will require employers to develop a written workplace harassment policy that includes reporting procedures and performing a confidential investigation, appropriate to the circumstances, when a complaint of harassment is made in the workplace.
The employer is also required to ensure the sources of harassment are identified and stopped and take “reasonable steps to remedy the effects of harassment and to prevent or minimize future incidents.”
Under the new regulations, workers are required to report incidents of harassment, cooperate in the investigation of a harassment complaint and maintain confidentiality throughout the process.
Mr Godfrey said the federation has developed some templates for its members to use in creating their own harassment policies.
Both Mr Godfrey and Mr Campbell said the changing role of women on the farm with the move from what might be called a supporting role to an ownership and leadership role. Mr Campbell noted both the national president of his organization and the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture are women. The federation executive director said his organization is working on a project to encourage more women to enter the industry and take leadership roles.
“Every worker has a right to a safe and healthy work environment,” Jim MacPhee, Chair of the Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island, said.
“The new regulations will provide standards for employers to follow, and defines the rights and responsibilities of everyone in the workplace to promote a positive and respectful work environment free of harassment.
Prior to COVID-19, Workers Compensation Board staff provided free educational sessions across the province to help educate employers and workers about the new requirements.