Your Legal Responsibilities

Six Steps to Meeting Your Legal Responsibilities 1

Domestic violence that occurs outside of the workplace and beyond an employee’s assigned work duties is not workplace violence and the employer has no legal obligation to address it.

However, if domestic violence spills into the workplace, the employer may have certain legal duties. For example, if a worker’s partner makes a threat of violence that puts the workplace at risk or comes to the workplace to harm the employee, the employer must take steps to address this risk.

This section addresses domestic violence or threats of domestic violence from someone outside or inside your organization. Your legal obligations to address any form of violence in the workplace are covered in sections 374.1 to 374.8 of the New Brunswick General Regulation 91—191— Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The New Brunswick General Regulation 91—191— Occupational Health and Safety Act defines violence in a place of employment, as the attempted or actual use of physical force against an employee, or any threatening statement or behaviour that gives an employee reasonable cause to believe that physical force will be used against the employee, and includes sexual violence, intimate partner violence and domestic violence (General Regulation 91—191— OHS Act, Section 2).

Note: For ease of reading, the New Brunswick General Regulation 91—191— Occupational Health and Safety Act will hereinafter be referred to as “the Regulation”.

Step 1:

Assess the risk

Once a year, all New Brunswick employers must assess the risk of violence in their workplace (the Regulation, s.374.1(1)). If you learn about domestic violence that puts your employees at risk, you must assess the risk and decide how best to protect your workers

Risk Assessment - A template to help guide employers can be found at annex D, page 15-16 here:

Step 2:

Establish a Policy/ Procedure/ Code of Practice

Employers must define violence and steps to address violence in the workplace in a policy or a procedure. In the Regulation, it is stated that employers must develop a code of practice to deal with violence in the workplace. A ‘code of practice’ is a term describing a practice that may include policies and/or procedures.

If you already have a policy/procedure/code of practice on workplace violence, you may only need to add domestic violence (including sexual, between intimate partners, etc.) in the definition of workplace violence.

This policy/procedure/code of practice must be established in consultation with either:

  • your workplace Joint Health and Safety Committee (if your business has one);
  • your workplace Health and Safety Representative (if your business has one);
  • all your employees.

*This requirement applies to NB employers who either:

  • have a moderate or high risk of violence;
  • have twenty or more employees in the province;
  • have workers that are considered to work in a high-risk position according to the Regulation (s. 374.2(4)).

Templates – If you don’t already have a policy/procedure/code of practice for managing workplace violence, you can create one following WorkSafeNB’s template at annex G page 20 here:

Step 3:

Eliminate or minimize the risk

One of the most important components of a policy/procedure/code of practice is to take steps that will eliminate or minimize the risk to workers – for example, secure your premises. When non-imminent threats exist (threats that could happen in the future), employers must follow their policy/procedure/code of practice on how to manage the potential for domestic violence in their workplace (the Regulation, s.374.2(2)).

If the threat of violence is about to happen, you should contact the police immediately by dialing 911.

Step 4:

Instruct your workers

All workers must be trained on their policy/procedure/code of practice for managing violence in the workplace (the Regulation, 374.7(1)). This will include:

  • How to recognize the potential for violence in the workplace
  • The policies, procedures, and arrangements that have been made to address the risk
  • How workers should respond
  • How to obtain assistance
  • How to report, investigate, and document any incidents of violence in the workplace

If you are informed that some of your workers may encounter a specific individual who may become violent in the workplace, then you must inform the staff of this risk. You must inform them of the person’s identity, the nature and extent of the risk, as well as the necessary controls.

There is no duty to inform all workers, only those who are likely to encounter the individual in the course of their work. You must balance the requirement to keep workers safe with your employees’ right to confidentiality. This may involve competing legal obligations that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Personal Safety Plan – Creating a personal safety plan helps keep your employees and the workplace safe from threats of domestic violence in the workplace. Workplace Safety Plans set out specific actions that will be taken to keep workers safe from threats associated with domestic violence in the workplace.

This 1-minute video demonstrates what to include in a workplace safety plan for your employee: (click the 2nd video from the bottom)

A sample template can be accessed here:

Step 5:

Responding to an incident

If a violent incident occurs at your workplace, you must:

  • take all reports of violence seriously;
  • contact the police if there is physical violence or a violent threat is made by dialing 911;
  • investigate the incident and take remedial action;
  • keep records of complaints or incidents of violence (for example, copies of emails, text messages, Facebook messages, etc.);
  • offer assistance to those affected by the violence;
  • advise your employee to seek medical assistance, should they have been injured in a violent workplace incident.

Step 6:

Review and update

The policy/procedure/code of practice must be reviewed and updated as conditions change. At the very least, it must be reviewed on an annual basis in consultation with your workplace Joint Health and Safety Committee, or your workplace Health and Safety Representative, or with your workers if your business does not have such a committee or representative.

More information on the rights and responsibilities of employers:

1 This section was developed with guidance from WorkSafeNB.