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FAQ: Employment Equity


What is the purpose of employment equity?

Who is eligible for consideration of employment equity?

What is the history behind the development of employment equity?

Can you dispel some of the myths surrounding employment equity?

What are some resources I can use to learn more about Employment Equity?

Click on the image to download our "Employment Equity" Factsheet


What is the purpose of employment equity?

Employment Equity policies seek to achieve equality and fairness in the workplace so that persons who belong to historically disadvantaged groups are not denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability due to systemic barriers. The principle behind Employment Equity is more than just treating everyone in the same way, but requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.

These measures include: identifying and eliminating barriers in an organization's employment procedures and policies; establishing positive policies and practices to ensure the effects of systemic barriers are eliminated; and ensure appropriate representation of "designated group" members throughout their workforce.

 


Who is eligible for consideration of employment equity?

The federal Employment Equity Act designates four classes of individuals who are eligible for consideration of employment equity: women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and visible minorities. The Quebec Act Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies (2001), includes the four federally designated groups in addition to persons whose mother tongue is neither French nor English and who are neither indigenous peoples nor members of a visible minorities. McGill University’s Employment Equity Policy (2007) incorporates the designated groups mentioned under Canadian and Quebec law in addition to persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities.

 


What is the history behind the development of employment equity?

Discrimination has been a prevailing problem in most societies since time immemorial. Over the past fifty years various legislative efforts and programs have been waged by the federal and provincial governments in Canada to prohibit discrimination in both the public and private spheres. This included the passage into law of the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977) and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (1975). In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. Section 15 (which came into effect in 1985) prohibits discrimination on a variety of grounds, including race and gender. However s.15(2) explicitly contemplates laws, programs or activities that have as their object, the amelioration of disadvantaged individuals or groups on account of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

By the mid-1980s, these efforts had yielded limited results for individuals from disadvantaged communities. In 1984, Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella released her Royal Commission on Equality in Employment Report. This was followed up by the Federal Government’s passage of the Employment Equity Act in 1986.

“It is not that individuals in the designated groups are inherently unable to achieve equality on their own, it is that the obstacles in their way are so formidable and self-perpetuating that they cannot be overcome without intervention. It is both intolerable and insensitive if we simply wait and hope that the barriers will disappear with time. Equality in employment will not happen unless we make it happen.”

-Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella.

Can you dispel some of the myths surrounding employment equity?

Here are some myths and realities about employment equity.
Based on: Human Resources and Social Development Canada’s “Employment Equity - Myths and Realities”

Myth: Employment Equity means treating everyone the same.
Reality: Employment Equity means treating everyone with fairness, taking into account people’s differences. This might include accommodation of employee religious observances, outfitting the workplace with technical equipment to assist people with physical disabilities.
Myth: Employment Equity is “reverse discrimination”.
Reality: Employment Equity means everyone has equal employment opportunities - not just a select group. It is about eliminating barriers faced by certain groups in society. Employment Equity does not mean people will lose their jobs because employers have made or will make room for designated group members.
Myth: Employment Equity requires employers to fill quotas.
Reality: Quotas are explicitly prohibited under Canada’s Employment Equity Act. Employment Equity is about settings rational and flexible targets to achieve fairness in Employment for designated groups. Employment Equity allows employers allows employers to set their own goals and realistic timetables for achieving the goals of employment equity.
Myth: Employment Equity means hiring unqualified people.
Reality: Employment Equity means providing all qualified and qualifiable individuals with equal employment opportunities and not just individuals from a select group. Both Canadian and Quebec legislation both provide that employers are not obligated to hire or promote unqualified individuals.
Myth: Employment Equity means lowering job standards.
Reality: Employment Equity examines job standards to ensure that job criteria are realistic and job related. (e.g. Does an applicant really need a high school diploma or university degree to do the job? Does an applicant really need to satisfy a specific height requirement? Does the job require “Canadian experience”? Is it necessary to have a driver’s license?).
Myth: It is too difficult and expensive to accommodate persons with disabilities.
Reality: It generally costs less than $500 to adapt a workstation to accommodate a person with a disability.
Myth: Workplace equality should be left up to market forces; there is no need to intervene.
Reality: Employment Equity is required to compliment market forces. Studies indicate that certain people are denied access to jobs, promotions or training by policies and practices in the workplace. Such exclusion is not necessarily intentional but the negative impact is nevertheless the same.

 


What are some resources I can use to learn more about Employment Equity?

Canadian Government Policies on Employment Equity

Employment Equity Act

Federal Contractors Program

Canadian Human Rights Commission - Employment Equity

An Act Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies

Commission de droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

McGill University Employment Equity Policy

McGill University Human Resources
Phone: (514) 398-4617