Employment Equity

On Employment Equity audits



What is the Employment Equity Act?
The Employment Equity Act (the Act) helps ensure that all Canadians have the same access to the labour market. The Act also requires that employers take actions to ensure the full representation of members of the four designated groups within their organizations.

Who belongs to the four designated groups?
The four designated groups are:

  • women;
  • Aboriginal peoples;
  • persons with disabilities; and
  • members of visible minorities.

What does the Employment Equity Act mean for an employer?
By law, employers are responsible for ensuring equality in the workplace. To do so, they must:

  • determine if all four designated groups are fully represented at every level  of their organization’s workforce;
  • identify employment barriers for any of the four designated groups; and
  • work with employees to develop a plan that promotes full representation of all four designated groups.

What is an employment equity plan?
An employment equity plan identifies the policies and practices an employer intends to implement to ensure full representation of all four designated groups. The plan must specify measures and short term goals (up to three years) to correct any under-representation of the designated groups.

What is the role of the union?
Unions work with organizations to develop and implement an employment equity plan. They can also make sure that the collective agreement does not negatively impact members of the four designated groups.

Who is responsible for giving effect to the Employment Equity Act?
 The responsibility is shared among following departments and commissions:

  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provides employers with advice and the tools needed to comply with the Act. They are also responsible for collecting employment equity reports for the private sector.
  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) conducts compliance audits of federally regulated businesses, Crown corporations and federal public sector organizations.
  • The Treasury Board Secretariat maintains a database on the representation and availability of members of the designated groups for all federal public sector organizations. It also tables the federal public sector annual report on employment equity to Parliament.
  • The Public Service Commission develops federal public sector policies in the areas of staffing and recruitment. It ensures the proper application of the Public Service Employment Act by all departments and agencies.

How does the Commission decide which employers to audit?
The Commission focuses its audits on employers with:

  • more than 500 employees; and
  • a below average employment equity result in comparison with its sector.

What happens during the audit process?
The Commission begins by informing organizations that they have been selected for a review. Organizations then have two weeks to provide the Commission with their latest workforce analysis.

Based on the organization’s workforce analysis, the Commission has two options:

  • Organizations with good representation of the designated groups (when compared to other employers in the same sector) will receive a report highlighting their accomplishments and challenges.
  • Organizations that do not have good representation of the designated groups (when compared to other employers in the same sector) will be audited. An on-site visit including interviews with employees, managers and union representatives is conducted. Organizations are then provided with a report specifying the additional actions required to comply with the Act.

What does an audit look at?
The audit looks at nine legislative requirements. It determines whether an organization:

  • encourages its employees to self identify;
  • has identified gaps in the full representation of all four designated groups;
  • has identified employment barriers for any of the four designated groups;
  • has prepared and implemented an employment equity plan (including short term goals);
  • monitors and periodically reviews its employment equity plan;
  • educates its employees on employment equity;
  • informs its employees of all changes to the employment equity plan;
  • consults with its employees and union representatives, by inviting them to voice their views and concerns; and
  • develops and maintains its employment equity records.

For more information on these requirements, please refer to the Employment Equity Act.

For guidance in implementing employment equity in the workplace, please consult the Guidelines for the Employment Equity Act.

How long is the audit?
In general, an audit takes less than one year.

What happens if an organization does not follow the Employment Equity Act?
The Commission will send the organization a letter asking to correct the situation. If within four months nothing has changed, the Commission can impose corrective measures.

If the organization does not take the required actions; the Commission may refer the matter to the Employment Equity Review Tribunal.

For more information, please contact the Commission at 1-888-214-1090, or by e-mail at info.com@chrc-ccdp.gc.ca