University of Lethbridge - The Diversity Advantage

Frequently Asked Questions

Employee FAQ     |     Managers FAQ

Employees who aren't familiar with employment equity will have a lot of questions. The following are some of the most common:

1. What is employment equity?
Employment equity means a representative workforce, fair pay practices, and the development of programs to support employment equity goals. It also means fairness in hiring, promotion, training, and retention for all employees. All members of the workforce have the right to enjoy fair treatment and employment opportunities at work.

2. Why are we implementing an Employment Equity Program (EEP)?
The need to comply with Employment Equity legislation is often the first step towards embracing diversity. Once the compliance process is initiated, the mechanisms put into place invariably extend far beyond the employment equity act to benefit the entire workforce with correspondingly greater benefits to the organization. For example, the bias free selection is a fundamental change that benefits all. The typical employment equity policy covers religious and cultural issues not confined to just designated groups' members. In fact culture was mentioned neither in the Canadian Human Rights Act nor the Employment Equity Act as a accommodation requirement. Flexible hours and telework apply to men as well as women. Anti-harassment measures also cover all employees without any distinction whatsoever.

3. What groups does employment equity address?
All employees can participate and benefit; however, employment equity focuses on four groups: women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.

4. Why is employment equity important?
Census and other data indicate that member of these four designated groups often experience significant discrimination in employment. For example, they experience higher unemployment, concentration in low status and low paying jobs, and limited opportunities for career advancement. On the other hand, members of these groups constitute an even greater proportion of the labour force. It's important that the barriers inhibiting their full participation be removed, so that the organization and society as a whole can benefit.

5. If the demographics are changing, shouldn't we just let market forces correct the past imbalances?
It's true that there are more members of designated groups in the workforce than ever before, but systemic barriers still exist. Census data and other labour force studies show that the pace of change is so slow that it would be 80-100 years or more before some groups achieved equity. We can't afford to waste the skill and abilities of whole groups of people, while the market fixes itself.

6. Does employment equity mean a quota system?
No. A quota system would require that a fixed number of people be placed in certain jobs, regardless of their skills and qualifications. Instead, the University of Lethbridge sets realistic goals and timetables to meet requirements, based on such factors as staff turnover, workforce growth rate, employee availability, and meeting the goals outlined in the strategic plan.

7. Isn't employment equity just reverse discrimination?
Employment equity ensures that the skills of all employees are fully utilized. It broadens the pool of available candidates for new positions and promotion, and provides opportunities for everyone. It lets everyone compete fairly based on his or her skills and qualifications.

Current employment policies and practices will be examined thoroughly and where any real or potential discrimination exists, the affected policies and/or practices will be altered or eliminated to remove any employment barriers, ensuring that all candidates will have an equal opportunity in their career progression.

8. All organizations want to hire the best candidates for the job. How does employment equity affect this?
Employment equity most definitely advocates that only qualified people be hired and promoted. However, in the past, job requirements may have been vague or so rigidly defined that valuable and qualified talent was either inadvertently not recognized or screened out. Under employment equity, job requirements are examined to ensure they're realistic and job-related, so that all candidates can be fairly assessed.

9. Why is this organization asking for my designated group status on the employment equity survey?
As part of our compliance with the Federal Contractors program, the University of Lethbridge is required to ask all its employees to voluntarily indicate if they are a member of one or more of the designed groups in order to get an accurate snapshot of the workforce. The data collected can then be used to analyze where we are in relation to the availability of qualified designated group members in the hiring regions and can help us to identify and remove any barriers that may exist in employment processes.

10. Why is my name or employee number shown on the survey?
Employment equity surveys are confidential, but not anonymous. It is mandatory for the University of Lethbridge to maintain a complete and accurate database as set out in the Employment Equity Regulations; this includes an employee identifier.
Employees may choose not to answer the questions, but they must still submit the form. In order to conduct appropriate analysis and planning a survey participation rate of more than 80% is required so the organization must be able to follow up on missing returns.

11. How will confidentiality be assured?
Access to these data will be kept under strict confidence and restricted to the acting Employment Equity Coordinator. It will NOT be stored in your personnel file nor shared with other HR personnel. Only aggregate or summary data will be reported. Individual results, including names will not be released.

12. How will the goals and timetables be developed? Will I be able to participate in the process?
The employment equity plan is developed in consultation with management, employee groups and the employment equity committee. If you have any ideas on ways to eliminate barriers or to create a supportive environment, please contact the Employment Equity Coordinator, a member of the employment equity committee, or volunteer to serve on the committee yourself. Your participation is always welcome.

Do you have a question? Contact Human Resources human.resources@uleth.ca

Managers FAQ     |     Employee FAQ

In addition to the questions all employees ask, Managers and Supervisors often have very specific concerns. The following are some of the most common:

1. Why are we implementing Employment Equity?
The need to comply with employment Equity legislation is often the first step towards embracing diversity. Once the compliance process is initiated, the mechanisms put into place invariably extend far beyond the four designated groups under the employment equity act to benefit the entire workforce with correspondingly greater benefits to the organization. For example, the bias free selection is a fundamental change that benefits all. The typical employment equity policy covers religious and cultural issues not confined to just designated group members. In fact culture was neither mentioned n the Canadian Human Rights Act nor the Employment Equity Act as a accommodation requirement. Flexible hours and telework apply to men as well as women. Anti-harassment measures also cover all employees without any distinction whatsoever.

2. What other benefits exist for our organization as a result of implementing an employment equity program?
An employment equity program has been shown to provide organizations with many benefits including access to wider and more diverse markets as well as improved management-employee relations.

3. What are my obligations as a Manager in relation to employment equity?
Under the Canadian Human Rights Act and provincial codes, the University of Lethbridge is required to maintain a discrimination-free workplace. As representatives of the employer, this legal requirement applies to all Managers. As a Manager, you play an important role as a leader and role model in the organization. You're also responsible for implementing the organization's approved policies and procedures, including employment equity.

4. How will the employment equity program impact my current department's goals?
After the data collected from the employment equity surveys is analyzed, aggregate reports will be generated. The results will be compared to Census Canada data and subsequent numerical and quantifiable goals will be set to address any deficiencies that may be identified in a department. These goals will include realistic target dates and will be set according to the needs of the University and the regional differences of the geographical areas from which each department recruits.

5. In this unit, we all work as a team, sharing the duties equally. How can I hire a person with a disability, if that disability would prevent the person from doing some of the tasks?
Human rights codes require that Managers accommodate the needs of their employees in relation to the essential duties of the job. Of course, that means that first you have to identify those core duties. If the employee with the disability could perform most of the job duties, and trade the remainder with a colleague, then that could constitute a reasonable accommodation. A technical aid (e.g. a large-screen computer, or a lifting device) could also provide a way around the difficulty.

As a Manager, you have to be creative about questions like these. How would you handle it if the top performer on your team were injured in a car accident tomorrow? Wouldn't you still want to keep that person, if at all possible, so as to be able to continue to benefit from his or her skill and experience? Exercise the same flexibility in dealing with a new employee.

6. What if I receive some resistance to employment equity from my team?
Nip it in the bud by confronting resistance and unacceptable behavior directly and quickly. Talk about employment equity in staff meetings and communiqués to deal with any fears or myths. Give personal examples to show the benefits. Model the behavior's you're trying to instill. Encourage unit members to participate in corporate initiatives. Also remember that you have support available from the Diversity Advantage team.

7. Will employment equity lower job standards?
Absolutely not. Employment equity ensures that job standards are realistic and job related so that valuable and qualified talent is not ruled out when a position needs to be filled. For example, does the applicant really need a University degree to do the job or is it necessary for the employee to be 5'10" tall?

8. If the demographics are changing, shouldn't we just let market forces correct the past imbalances?
It's true that there are more members of designated groups in the workforce than ever before, but systemic barriers still exist. Census data and other labour force studies show that the pace of change is so slow that it would be 80-100 years or more before some groups achieved equity. We can't afford to waste the skill and abilities of whole groups of people, while the market fixes itself.

9. How can the University of Lethbridge possibly implement employment equity during periods of major change?
Employment equity is about much more than just external recruitment. Even when the organization isn't expanding, there are still employment opportunities due to normal turnover, e.g. to replace people who resign or retire, or employees going on parental leave. You can also focus on your training, career development, and retention systems during this period. Initiatives to develop a supportive environment (e.g. training for all staff on employment equity and human rights, community outreach, implementation of new or revised human resources policies and procedures) can be undertaken at any time in the business cycle. In fact, the University of Lethbridge has already completed some of these initiatives: meeting with employee group representatives, meetings with Dean's and Directors, creation of this website, and development of a draft policy.

Do you have a question? Contact Human Resources human.resources@uleth.ca