In light of recent revelations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the government workplace, Premier Brian Pallister announced several measures to ensure government of Manitoba employees work in an environment that is respectful and free of all forms of harassment including sexual harassment.
The premier was joined by Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen and Fred Meier, clerk of the executive council, in making the announcement.
“I want every employee to know they have a right to a respectful workplace and there will be no reprisals if they assert their rights,” said Pallister in making the announcement. “I want every mother and father in our province to know their child will be safe, respected and heard if they make a choice in the future to work in the Manitoba government.”
The premier and his colleagues announced five initiatives to ensure all incidents of sexual harassment are taken seriously and addressed, that employees feel safe in reporting such incidents and that there is consistency in policies between political staff and public servants:
- Instituting a ‘no wrong door’ approach for political staff. Recent revelations have shown that in the past, political staff felt reluctant to bring forward complaints for fear of reprisal. An additional limitation was they could only bring complaints to their direct supervisor or the chief of staff. Going forward, political staff will have additional options to report through other avenues, independent from politics, including the clerk of the executive council or the Civil Service Commission.
- Launching consultations with government employees to gain insight into their experiences, and to hear about the impacts of policies, practices and other tools that address workplace sexual harassment. The consultations will be led by the Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat and the Civil Service Commission.
Engaging an external expert to review the province’s policies and procedures, and make recommendations. The intent is to ensure Manitoba leads the nation in preventing and addressing workplace harassment by simplifying procedures, identifying gaps in current approaches and ensuring best practices. Results of the review will be shared with other
public-sector employers to ensure consistency in approach.
Implementing a public reporting process on statistics related to instances of harassment that occur across government. This reporting mechanism will protect the privacy of complainants, while providing accountability to employees and the public. It will include the number and type of allegation raised by employees, as well as:
- the number of respondents to allegations,
- the number of investigations conducted,
- the number of substantiated and unsubstantiated allegations, and
- information related to the outcomes of investigations including disciplinary measures.
- Mandating respectful workplace training for all cabinet and political staff. Steps have already been taken steps to raise awareness and educate all staff on ensuring workplaces are safe for all including sessions on sexual harassment in the workplace for government caucus and political staff. This proactive approach to education on sexual harassment will help ensure the government of Manitoba becomes a safer place to work.
“The culture that allowed this behaviour to go unreported and unpunished is not acceptable,” said Pallister. “Our public service and our political staff are the engines that drive government. We need the best and the brightest working here. To get them, we need to offer an environment that makes them want to work here. Today we are taking concrete steps to enshrine that environment.”