Unraveling Law 27 in 4 Points

April 11, 2024, by Pierre Ouellette, Laura Martel

In 2021, in response to the numerous consequences resulting from psychosocial risks in organizations, the law on occupational health and safety was revamped. This has had, and continues to have, significant impacts within organizations, which are obliged to adopt major changes in their management approaches.

In this interview, we asked Pierre Ouellette, organizational psychologist, coach, and strategic advisor in management and cultural transformation at Afi U. and Edgenda, to explain how Bill 27 will impact businesses and to offer insights into where organizations should start in adapting to these changes.

What is Bill 27?

Bill 27 is a law that aim to modernize the occupational health and safety regime established in 1979. It's no secret: in Canada, the costs associated with mental health and absenteeism are very high for organizations. Indeed, more than 500,000 workers are absent every week due to mental health issues. [See CRHA source below] According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the annual economic burden related to psychological issues is estimated at $51 billion.

Given the circumstances, we're compelled to reassess our management methodologies. Hence, the timing of the enactment of Bill 27 couldn't be more pivotal. Essentially, this legislation mandates organizations to:

  1. Identify and analyze psychosocial risks that may impact on workers' health.
  2. Include workers in prevention programs and action plans.
  3. Appoint a Health and Safety Officer.

In other words, the amendment to the law aims to promote a healthy work environment where workers feel free to express themselves and where their psychological health is protected.

Moreover, employers have until October 2025 to comply with the obligations associated with Bill 27. Subsequently, those who do not fulfill their legal responsibilities will be subject to sanctions and fines. It is therefore essential to implement policies and best practices now.

As mentioned above, Bill 27 will require employers to identify potential psychosocial risks that may arise within the organization. But first, what is a psychosocial risk?

According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, " Psychosocial occupational risks are defined as: ' Factors that are related to work organization, management practices, employment conditions and social relations and that increase the probability of generating adverse effects on the physical and mental health of exposed individuals.'"

Psycosocial risks in workplace: a few insights on what's coming with Bill 27

A psychosocial risk can be associated with various factors such as:

  • Authoritarian management practices that limit decision-making latitude and plunge individuals into psychological insecurity
  • Unfair employment conditions
  • Difficulty balancing work and family life
  • Workload
  • Managerial and colleague support
  • Chronic stress, which leads to excessive emotional demands
  • Psychological harassment
  • Workplace violence

In short, a psychosocial risk represents any factor that threatens workers' psychological safety.

Mental health issues can have far-reaching effects on interpersonal relationships, quality of life, and family stability, consequently leading to broader social costs such as relational difficulties, family conflicts, and even a rise in divorce rates.

Psychological Safety: Building Trust in Your Team

Concretely, what actions should organizations take to comply with Bill 27?

Above all, it's imperative for organizational leaders to pinpoint potential psychosocial risks within their work environment that could impact their employees' mental well-being. Once these risks are identified, it's crucial to enact tangible measures aimed at fostering a healthy workplace environment.

In a proactive approach to crisis prevention, managers can employ various strategies upstream of the risk. For instance, they can alleviate the workload of overwhelmed employees, involve employees more in significant decision-making processes, and acknowledge their efforts by spotlighting their achievements. During this preventive phase, organizations are also advised to cultivate an environment where the freedom to make mistakes, contribute, influence, and voice opinions is valued and respected.

Developing emotional intelligence at work

When tensions escalate within teams to the extent of threatening employees' mental well-being, it's crucial to intervene effectively. This may entail organizing workshops on time management or stress management. Managers can also be encouraged to enhance their soft skills to better recognize signs of overload or fatigue in their employees. Furthermore, implementing employee assistance programs and instituting a return-to-work policy for employees who have been absent due to mental health concerns are pertinent measures to consider.

In summary, initiatives aimed at mitigating psychosocial risks and their associated consequences vary and naturally depend on the size and unique characteristics of each organization. Prioritizing employees' mental health must be a paramount concern, with tailored initiatives designed to suit each professional context.

If you were to assist an employer lacking a framework to fulfill the requirements of Bill 27, what initial steps would you recommend they take?

  • Familiarization with the law and its requirements: It is essential for the employer to familiarize themselves with the provisions of Bill 27 and understand the legal obligations regarding harassment and violence prevention in the workplace.
  • Risk assessment: Conduct a risk assessment to identify the risk factors for harassment and violence within the organization. This may include reviewing current policies and practices, as well as collecting data on past incidents.
  • Development of policies and procedures: Develop clear policies and effective procedures to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace, as well as to address complaints and harassment or violence situations when they occur. These policies should be in line with legal requirements and communicated to all employees.
  • Training: Provide training to all employees on policies and procedures for harassment and violence prevention in the workplace. This includes raising awareness of what harassment and violence are, how to recognize them, how to report incidents, and what the consequences are for offenders.
  • Promoting a culture of respect: Promote an organizational culture based on respect, tolerance, and kindness. This can include awareness initiatives, team-building activities, and regular communications on the importance of respect in the workplace.
  • Implementation of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms: Establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies and procedures, as well as to gather feedback from employees on the organizational climate for harassment and violence prevention.

In summary, all organizations must address psychosocial risks. Not only because they have a legal responsibility to ensure psychological safety in the workplace, but also because an action plan helps preserve employees' psychological health and thus, reduce costs related to productivity loss.