People with disabilities continue to face barriers to working in Canada's telecom industry
September 21th, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission
Findings of an audit report published today by the Canadian Human Rights Commission reveals that people with disabilities still don’t have fair and equal access to employment in Canada’s broadcasting and telecommunications sector.
The audit shows that the proportion of people with disabilities employed in the communications sector (representation) is well below the number of people with disabilities available to work in the sector (availability). Despite many employers having employment equity and diversity initiatives in place, representation has only improved from 1.7% in 2011 to 3.7% in 2019. The availability rate for people with disabilities in this sector is 9.1%. This, after more than 25 years of the Employment Equity Act being in force.
None of the 17 employers who participated in the audit met all of their legislative obligations. Only half of the employers that participated in the audit reported that their workplaces were accessible and barrier-free.
The audit found key barriers for people with disabilities, including stigma and stereotypes, a lack of disability awareness training, the lack of employees with disabilities as role models or mentors, and difficulty negotiating reasonable accommodation in the workplace.
As these organizations are federally regulated, they are also mandated under the Accessible Canada Act to identify, prevent and remove barriers. The first step in meeting these obligations is the development and publication of an Accessibility plan.
With a workforce of nearly 130,000 employees, the broadcasting and telecommunications sector makes up a significant portion of the federally regulated workforce of Canada. The report is the result of a sector-wide horizontal employment equity audit that the Commission conducted over several years that looked at the representation of people with disabilities in the telecommunications sector.
- About 38% of employers surveyed indicated that they had not shared their workforce analysis with managers. For hiring managers to take corrective staffing actions, they must be aware of outstanding gaps for people with disabilities.
- 55% of the employers surveyed (32 employers) reported that they had established an EE committee, but only 24% of those surveyed (14 employers) indicated that the EE committee included a representative with a disability. To ensure effective consultation and to identify concrete solutions, the participation of people with disabilities is crucial.
- Almost half of the 58 employers surveyed reported that they had identified barriers to employment related to disabilities. However, among the 17 employers selected for a full audit, only two employers had completed a valid employment systems review (ESR) and only one had created a sound EE plan.
- In many organizations, despite promising initiatives, the audit revealed a lack of an accountability framework to monitor the implementation and success of the EE plan. For example, only two employers audited had established performance indicators for hiring managers to close representation gaps for people with disabilities. Accountability measures and systems are crucial to ensure progress.
About Employment Equity
The Employment Equity Act came into force in 1996. It is meant to ensure that everybody in Canada has fair access to employment. The Act requires that federally regulated employers take steps to eliminate barriers to equity in the workplace and take actions to ensure the full representation of people belonging to four designated groups: women, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and members of racialized communities. The Commission works with federally-regulated employers to address the areas of underrepresentation of the four designated groups in order to promote equality in the workplace. That includes conducting audits to assess an employer’s compliance with the obligations set out in the Act. Removing barriers to employment opportunity and improving workplace representation for historically marginalized groups is a fundamental step to improving human rights for everyone.
“These findings confirm a disturbing lack of meaningful progress in representation for peoples with disabilities in this important sector. These kinds of barriers go to the heart of being able to live a full and inclusive life. There has arguably never been a more important time in modern history for Canada to have an inclusive economic vision forward. That vision must include people with disabilities. Canada needs all of us. Together, we can do better.”
“This important report demonstrates that while we have some distance to go to achieve equality for persons with disability, real change is possible. What is critical is a deeper commitment to measure whether our plans and policies are achieving tangible results. All levels of management within organizations need to take accountability for making their workplaces fully accessible. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. And it’s the law.”
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