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Employment Equity


In 1983 the federal government established the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, headed by Judge Rosalie Abella. The Commission, which released its report in 1984, recognized that the demographic, social and economic patterns of Canadian society were changing and women and minorities would form increasingly large segments of the labour force in Canada’s future, a prediction that has proven to be accurate. The recommendations of this Royal Commission resulted in the creation of the Employment Equity Act of 1986 and the Federal Contractors Program, both of which were significant interventions by the Canadian government into human resource management policies and practices in the private and public sectors.

Some of the demographic, social and economic pattern changes that were noted by the Abella Commission included the following:

  • First, men’s participation rate in the labour force remains stable, whereas women, in dramatic numbers, are increasing their participation in both employment and in post-secondary education. Accordingly, women are seeking career development opportunities similar to those of men.
  • Second, Canada’s traditional sources of immigrants have been European countries, but in recent years, many more immigrants to Canada are members of visible minorities who may have particular problems integrating into Canadian society.
  • Third, there are 1.5 million disabled Canadians of working age who, if offered employment, could become fully or partly self-sufficient.
  • Fourth, Aboriginal people have suffered from their disadvantageous political and economic position in Canadian society.

These groups of people — women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people — have been denied the opportunity to develop their productive potential and share equitably in the benefits of productive work, yet these groups are playing increasingly important roles in Canada, both politically and economically. Public policy must respond to the needs of these groups of people.

The Abella Commission Report documented the practices Canadians have adopted that have negative effects on certain groups in society. The Report used the term systemic discrimination to refer to the unintentional barriers that screen out women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people from jobs they may be qualified to do. Systemic discrimination in the labour market produces high unemployment rates, lower than average salaries, and concentrations in low-status jobs for these groups of people. Clearly, systemic discrimination calls for systemic remedies that address the barriers that limit the full participation of these groups in productive work.

In addition to the term systemic discrimination, the Commission used employment equity and equality in particular ways. The Abella Report refers to equality as both equal and different treatment in order to achieve fairness; that is, treating people the same, in spite of their differences, as well as treating people as equals by accommodating their differences. The Commission coined the term employment equity to describe employment practices which eliminate discrimination and thereby provide equitable opportunities in employment.

In recent years, the concept of employment equity has evolved. The original goal of employment equity was to identify and remove barriers to equitable opportunities. That remains an important goal; however, employment equity is also valued as a means to enhance diversity. Removing barriers leads to greater diversity within an organization, which in turn can bring new perspectives and innovation. It is also recognized that the four groups designated in the Employment Equity Act are not the only groups who face discriminatory barriers resulting from historical disadvantage and who could, therefore, benefit from employment equity practices.

Federal Contractors Program

Employment equity programs are mandated federally by the Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program. The Employment Equity Act requires all federally-regulated companies, such as banks, airlines, and crown corporations, to report on the workforce distribution of the four targeted groups. The Canadian Human Rights Commission reviews these reports annually.

UBC is not covered by the Employment Equity Act, but by the Federal Contractors Program. This program covers all organizations of 100 employees or more that wish to bid on government contracts of $200,000 or more. Under this program, UBC must implement a program of employment equity following criteria set by the federal government. The government imposes no quotas; rather, UBC collects its own data and sets its own goals and timetables to achieve employment equity.

Employment Equity at UBC

UBC is committed to fairness in employment opportunity. Accordingly, UBC initiated an Employment Equity program based on guidelines established by the federal government. UBC’s Employment Equity measures include the removal of barriers to selection, promotion and training of members of the designated groups.

UBC’s Policy on Employment Equity (PDF) was approved by the Board of Governors in November 1990 and upholds the principles of individual merit and achievement to ensure that selection, training, and promotion decisions are based on how well an individual’s skills, knowledge and experience match specific job performance criteria.

Employment Equity does not encourage or require hiring according to quotas or hiring unqualified or less well-qualified applicants. Instead, it works to increase the range of applicants to reflect all those — including women, Aboriginal people, visible minorities and persons with disabilities — who are qualified candidates. Thus, it helps identify and remove barriers that prevent the full participation of members of designated groups in the workforce.


The Employment Equity Plan is an important part of the University’s commitment to advance equity and diversity at UBC. The University has participated in the Federal Contractors Program since 1988 and adopted an Employment Equity Policy in 1990. The Employment Equity Plan was introduced in 1992 and revised in July, 1997.  Recognizing a need to update the Employment Equity Plan, we began a review process in 2009. As a result of that review, a number of revisions were made to:  include both campuses in the Plan; incorporate actions from the UBC Equity & Diversity Strategic Plan; and update language.

The 2010 Employment Equity Plan is similar to the previous two Plans (1992, 1997) and includes the following 4 objectives:

  • Review of UBC’s employment policies and practices for discriminatory effect on members of equity groups, design policies and practices that support employment opportunities for equity group members.
  • Develop special measures and reasonable accommodations to achieve and maintain a UBC workforce that is representative of equity groups.
  • Foster and establish a respectful work environment at UBC that supports the successful integration of equity group members.
  • Adopt monitoring and accountability mechanisms to evaluate and adjust UBC’s Employment Equity Program.

The 2010 Plan is the result of consultations with UBC employee groups including CUPE 2950, CUPE 116, the Faculty Association and the Association for Administrative & Professional Staff.  Additionally, the Plan was sent to the senior Human Resources administrators on both UBC campuses, the President’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Discrimination & Harassment and UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Vice Chancellor’s Committee on Human Rights and Equity.

The Employment Equity Plan was accepted by the UBC Executive on March 26, 2010.

The Employment Equity Plan is linked to UBC’s Equity and Diversity Strategy which is part of the University’s process of renewing its commitment to equity and diversity. This strategy places employment equity in the context of a broader and overarching equity strategy for the University. The Equity and Diversity Strategy is the result of extensive consultation, both in-person and online, with interested individuals and groups at UBC through the Summer and Fall of 2009.  Input received helped shape the Plan and further consultation, including with UBC’s governing bodies, led to acceptance of the Equity and Diversity Strategic Plan by the UBC Executive in February 2010.

The Employment Equity Census

A major step in implementing an employment equity program at UBC was the dissemination of a survey in 1990 to all faculty and staff to determine the current representation of the four groups designated under the Employment Equity Act — women, visible minorities, Aboriginal people and persons with disabilities. This meant conducting a census on campus. Subsequently, all new UBC employees have been asked to complete an employment equity survey. Summary data was used to develop an employment equity program and this same data is used as a baseline to report on employment equity progress.

Since 1990, the demographics of the staff and faculty may have changed. In particular, faculty or staff who did not identify as persons with a disability when they completed the census may have now have a disability. It would also be helpful to have some additional information about sub-groups within some of the designated groups. For example, some groups classified as “visible minorities”, may face more or different barriers to employment than do other “visible minority” groups. We must ask additional questions to identify those distinctions. In addition, some historically disadvantaged groups, particularly members of LGBQT communities, have not been included in our employment equity planning. To do so, we need to collect data on their representation in the UBC workforce. It is for these reasons that the Equity and Inclusion Office is conducting a new census in 2008.

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Last reviewed 6/3/2013 3:00:36 PM


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