University of Lethbridge - The Diversity Advantage


Collection of Workforce Information

Legal Framework
The Employment Equity Act requires the University to collect information about its workforce in order to determine the degree of under-representation of persons in designated groups in each occupation and level. [Act, s. 9(1)(a)]
This information must be collected by means of a workforce survey questionnaire which asks if the employee is a member of a visible minority; a person with a disability; or an aboriginal person. [Reg., s. 3(1)] A high response rate is required.

Your information will be used to create statistics about the composition of our workforce. It will allow us to assess designated group representation in different occupational groups and levels, to set goals, and to monitor progress in reaching these goals. If you consent by checking the box at the end of the questionnaire, human resources may contact you regarding specific initiatives for your designated group (if you are a member of one), including support measures and accommodation needs. We may also request your participation in the Employment Equity Committee or in Advisory Committees, or seek your advice on specific employment equity issues.

It is mandatory for all employees to participate [Reg., s. 3(7)] by submitting a response; whether they are members of a designated group or not. However, answering the self-identification question is voluntary and you can select the "I prefer not to complete this questionnaire" option. If you have already completed the survey in prior years you are invited to review, update and correct information about yourself at any time. The questionnaire can be accessed by clicking the 'complete survey' button, (on the top, left) or directly through the "Bridge" (see instructions below). It is also available in Braille, large print or audio format upon request.

A Sensitive Issue
Some employees may feel uncomfortable with particular definitions or questions on the survey. They may be concerned about revealing information that is generally not known in the workplace, or they may be reluctant to self-identify because they do not want to be perceived as having been hired or promoted only because of their status as a member of a designated group.

In order to overcome such feelings, employees need to understand clearly that employment equity is in fact a commitment to merit. That self-identifying in any of the groups in no way indicates that employees were hired or promoted based on anything other than ability to do the job. An employee's present status and opportunities for advancement will not be affected adversely by participating in the survey.

Confidentiality and Access
The information is collected under the authority of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It is strictly confidential, and will only be disclosed or used by the University for statistical purposes in carrying out its obligations under the Employment Equity Act. [Act, s. 9(3)]. Even then, only aggregate or summary data will be reported. Individual results, including names will not be released. Access to the data is restricted to the acting Employment Equity "Officer". It will NOT be stored in your personnel file nor shared with other HR personnel.

How the Information Will Be Used

Once the survey is complete, an analysis is undertaken to compare the actual representation of designated group members in each occupational group (internal representation) with the representation that would normally be expected, taking into account qualifications, eligibility, and geographic location (external representation estimates from Statistics Canada census data). For a fitting comparison to occur, it is important that the survey results are reliable and accurate. Information on internal representation of designated group members is essential for:

  • identifying occupational groups where designated group members are under-represented;
  • identifying barriers that contribute to under-representation;
  • developing measures to improve the representation of designated group members; and
  • setting short and long term numerical goals as required under the Act in the development of an employment equity plan.

Employee Self-Identification Questionnaire
A confidential, self-identification questionnaire is available online to all University employees. Employees are required to:

  1. Log in to the Bridge by entering their Username (generally the first part of their email address), and their password.
  2. Voluntarily complete the short questionnaire by clicking on 'Yes' or 'No' buttons as appropriate (see definitions of designated groups below), or select the "I prefer not to complete this questionnaire" box. Please read the questions carefully.

Alternate formats are available, as well as confidential assistance. (Contact Human Resources.) You have the right to review and correct information relating to you at any time.

Understanding how the Designated Groups are defined
The survey uses the same definitions for the four designated groups as they are defined in the Employment Equity Act. In this way the survey results will be comparable to Statistics Canada census data.

Individuals may identify as belonging to more than one designated group. For example, persons of mixed heritage both aboriginal and visible minority may self-identify in both groups. Aboriginal persons who do not have a visible minority heritage should not identify as a member of a visible minority but only as an aboriginal person.

Aboriginal Peoples
An aboriginal person is a North American Indian or a member of the First Nation, a Métis, or Inuit. North American Indians or members of a First Nation include status, treaty, or registered Indians, as well as non-status and non-registered Indians.

It is not acceptable for people to check off "aboriginal person" simply because they were born in Canada. Other Aboriginal peoples, such as those from Mexico, Central and South America, Australia or elsewhere, should identify themselves as members of visible minorities.

Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities are people who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric, or learning impairment and who

  • consider themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment, or
  • believe that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment.

Also included, are persons whose functional limitations due to their impairment have already been accommodated in their current job or workplace (e.g. by the use of technical aids, changes to equipment or other working arrangements).

This includes not only the more obvious disabilities related to mobility, sight, and hearing, but also conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain, or dyslexia which are generally unseen but may have profound effects on a person's employment prospects.

Members of Visible Minorities
This definition is not based on place of birth, citizenship, or religion but includes persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-white in colour, non-Caucasian in race, or of mixed origin.

It does not include persons of Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Italian, or Ukrainian descent, or other ethnic groups who are considered to be white or Caucasian in origin.

This definition has been the subject of much discussion. However, it is important to remember that the rationale for including "visible minorities" in the law is rather straightforward: people who are visibly in a minority because of their skin colour or identifiable "racial" background may face various types of employment barriers. This does not mean that anyone believes "race" is a valid scientific category. (As some have pointed out, there is only one race, the human race.). Rather, it means that it is recognized that belonging to a visible minority still has social implications, and that the creation of a truly integrated society must start with the efforts to identify and address these consequences in a direct and systematic manner.