Here's what's changing for Quebec workers in the new year

As of 2019, all employers in Quebec will be required to have an up-to-date sexual harassment in the workplace policy, that will streamline the complaint and internal resolution process.

New regulations include more vacation time and updated sexual harassment policies in the workplace

New business policies in Quebec must, starting Jan. 1, include a definition of harassment, a complaint handling mechanism and a plan for sanctions. (Radio-Canada)

A series of changes to Quebec's labour code come into effect Jan. 1, bringing with them more paid vacation for certain employees and improved sexual harassment policies for everyone.

As of 2019, all employers in Quebec will be required to have an up-to-date sexual harassment in the workplace policy, that will streamline the complaint and internal resolution process.

Marianne Plamondon, a partner at Langlois law firm in Montreal, has specialized in labour and employment law for 16 years. 

She told CBC Montreal's Daybreak that a lot of employers have harassment policies that were adopted in 2004 but have not been updated since.

"Now, they have to renew it — go further. They have to ensure that the complaint process is efficient and solves the problems, and they have to include sexual harassment," she said.

"With the #MeToo movement, we've raised the bar. The level is higher now and employers must make sure that they have a process in place."

Along with including sexual harassment under the umbrella of workplace psychological harassment, employees will also have two years, instead of just 90 days, to file a formal complaint with the labour standards, pay equity and Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST).

The CNESST says psychological harassment means any "vexatious behaviour" in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct that affects an employee's dignity, resulting in a harmful work environment for the employee.

It can also be a single, serious incident that has a lasting harmful effect on the employee, it says.

Quebec complaints top 4,000 annually

About 19 per cent of Canadian women and 13 per cent of men reported being harassed in the workplace in 2016, with the highest level of harassment in healthcare jobs, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2017, the CNESST received 4,669 complaints of psychological harassment. There were 4,400 complaints in 2016 compared to 4,022 in 2011.

The new workplace harassment policy is expected to result in more complaints, according to Manon Poirier, the executive director of Quebec's human resources and industrial relations organizations known as the CRHA.

She said verbal abuse is the most common type of harassment in the workplace.

It's difficult for victims to come forward, Poirier said, but "a good and sound policy will facilitate the denunciations."

Restaurant owner John Cercone says the province should have better notified employers about the new requirement, especially for businesses like his with no human resources department.

"I think we're going to have to have a more open forum, and more of an encouragement of listening to these claims of abuse, whether physical or psychological," said Cercone, who co-owns Tavern on the Square in Westmount.

Know your schedule in advance

Employees will also be given new rights of refusal when it comes to last-minute scheduling changes.

That means employees can refuse to work more than two hours of overtime without fear of repercussions, and they can refuse to be called in for shifts that weren't scheduled and posted five days in advance.

Marianne Plamondon, a partner in the Montréal office of Langlois lawyers, is a specialist in labour and employment law. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC)

So if an employer asks a worker to come in the night before, giving only one day's notice, that person is allowed to say no.

However, there is an exception to this rule for employees who, by the nature of their work, need to remain available.

More paid vacation time

There's good news for Quebecers who have been working the same job for three years: they will be able to enjoy one more week of paid vacation.

It used to be that employees would qualify for three weeks of paid vacation only after working for the same employer for five years. Now, under the new regulations, the three weeks comes after three years.

There will also be two paid days for loss of a close family member, instead of only one paid day.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak