Equity does not mean that everyone is the same. Equity means that everyone in the organization has the opportunity to be accepted for themselves, to feel part of the organization and to use their full range of skills and abilities. Equity not only means removing barriers to getting into the organization but also the barriers created by unfairness and prejudice within the organization. It means being fair and flexible, accommodating cultural and physical differences and allowing people to be different yet equal.
Employment Equity is a program designed to ensure that all job applicants and employees have a fair chance in the workplace. It is achieved when no person is denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to their abilities.An employment equity program attempts to achieve:
Historically, examinations of occupations, careers patterns, and unemployment rates have indicated serious disparities between the labour force experiences of members of the designated groups (women, visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, and persons with disabilities). To address these disparities, the Canadian government passed into law a set of regulations, the Federal Contractors Program (1986) and the Employment Equity Act (1996), to ensure that no one is denied employment opportunities and benefits for reasons unrelated to ability. Employment equity ensures that systemic barriers faced by designated group members are identified and eliminated.
The term ‘systemic barriers’ refers to situations, policies and/or practices, which unfairly exclude members of the designated groups from taking part in the workplace. These “barriers” are varied and can include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Federal Contractors Program (FCP) was initiated by Cabinet in 1986. The FCP applies to provincially regulated employers with a workforce in Canada of 100 or more employees. Specifically, the FCP applies to contractors – those provincially regulated employers which receive federal government goods or services contracts of $200 000 or more. As a condition of bidding on federal contracts, contractors are required to certify in writing their commitment to employment equity. Contractors that do not honour their commitment to employment equity and are found non-compliant with program criteria may lose the right to receive further federal government contracts.
Affirmative Action is a process by which equality in the workplace is achieved through the active elimination of systemic discrimination. Affirmative Action measures are pro-active, temporary measures designed to remedy the effects of discrimination against members of the designated groups, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, and women. Affirmative Action through an Employment Equity program strives to "level the playing field" for all employees.
No, the purpose of employment equity is to hire qualified candidates; it is not to hire unqualified workers simply to meet numerical goals. Employment equity respects the ‘merit principle’ and encourages the selection, hiring, training, promotion and retention of qualified individuals.
"The biggest injustice is to treat equally things which are unequal"- Aristotle.
Experience and social research show that equality of rights or equal treatment is not sufficient to achieve equality of opportunities in society and in the workplace. This is why employment equity programs have been created, to overcome these inequities and to enhance employment opportunities for members of the designated groups. Employment equity means treating everyone with fairness, taking into account people’s differences. Instead of quotas, employers set targets for measuring progress in hiring workers from the four designated groups.
Systemic discrimination occurs when groups of people are excluded from the workplace for reasons not related to job requirements. It results from entrenched policies or practices that are part of the normal operation of employment systems which unintentionally discriminate. Often hidden, systemic discrimination has an adverse affect on Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, and women.
Managers assume that because the workplace is a university, the best candidates for clerical positions are those with a university degree.
This constitutes systemic discrimination because the job requirements for clerical work can usually be met very well without a university degree. The degree requirement may exclude many qualified people.
In 1984, Judge Rosalie Abella was commissioned by the Government of Canada to examine equality in employment. The Commission on Equality in Employment, 1984 (The Abella Commission) found that individuals from four designated groups experienced systemic discrimination and were excluded from equal participation in the labour market. As a whole, they experienced higher levels of unemployment or underemployment, lower pay for equal qualifications and lower participation in positions of authority. The four designated groups are:
There are a number of ways to measure equity in the workplace. These include:
The concept of diversity goes beyond the historical employment equity legislation enacted both in federal and provincial jurisdictions. Employers that value diversity recognize the contributions that individuals from diverse groups can make to their organizations. Diversity-friendly organizations are totally inclusive. These organizations don't just tolerate those who are different, but celebrate the differences of their members.
According to the International Personnel Management Association's Benchmarking Committee, "diversity efforts in the workplace facilitate the exchange of new perspectives, improve problem solving by inviting different ideas, and create a respectful, accepting work environment." Surveys have demonstrated a positive impact on high performance where leadership teams include a diversity of ages, ethnicity, and gender. A diverse workforce also can improve organizational productivity and creativity. While managing a diverse community can be a challenge, there is also potential for great accomplishment. The key for employers is to make diversity an asset within the organization.
The Canadian labour market is undergoing deep, fundamental shifts due to an aging population, a growing demand for highly skilled workers, and an increasingly diverse population. By the year 2016, approximately two thirds of the Canadian population aged 15-64 will be made up of people from the four designated groups targeted by the Federal Contractors Program (women, visible minorities, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities).