Managing Employment Equity in Organizations

HR managers pay a central role in making sure that organizations meet different legal requirements. The actions of HR managers, and company managers, can often be reactive rather than focused on education and prevention. Effective HRM practices require a proactive approach to employment equity and the law.

The Implementation of Employment Equity in Organizations

Informed and proactive employment equity policies and practices for any organization requires ongoing support and maintenance at all levels.

  1. Senior Management and Engagement
  2. Demographic Data and Analysis
  3. Employment Practices
  4. Operational Plan
  5. Implementation
  6. Monitoring, Evaluation and Revision

Senior Management Commitment and Engagement

As is the case with most HRM initiatives, obtaining senior management commitment is essential.  A written policy describing equity that is widely communicated, visible to everyone and discussed frequently, as it fosters a more supportive culture. For example, Lightspeed is a very successful Montreal-based company whose CEO has fully embraced diversity and inclusivity. Dax DaSilva has made the empowerment of LGBTQA+ employees a priority for his company. From top management, employment equity should be put in the hands of a senior manager, joint-labour management committees, and employment equity advisory committees.

Demographic Data and Analysis

Under the employment equity act, employers may gather data on members of designated groups as long as employees voluntarily agree to be identified or identify themselves as members of designated groups, and the data must only be used for employment equity and reporting purposes. Two types of information can be used to provide an internal assessment of diversity in an organization. Stock data shows the status of designated groups in occupational categories and compensation levels. At Lightspeed for example, a Diversity and Inclusion annual survey showed that there were 16.8 percent of employees who identified as LGBTQ+, which is two to three times higher than other tech companies. Those employees are in the organizational chart and for different compensation levels would be considered stock data.  The other type of information, flow data, is more dynamic and provides a profile of the employment decisions affecting designated groups (i.e., interview results broken down by gender of applicants). To obtain this information a voluntary self-identification questionnaire is distributed to employees.

Employment Practices

Employment systems or “employment practices” are those processes by which employers carry out personnel activities such as recruitment, hiring, training and development, promotion, job classification, discipline, and termination. These activities are scrutinized to ensure that they are fair and do not exclude members of certain groups. At the core of this review is to ensure that employment policies or practices are based on criteria that are job related. Also, as specified earlier, it is important that the principle of reasonable accommodations be respected and that the organization attempts to adjust the working conditions or schedules of employees, such as redesign job duties, adjust schedules, and upgrade facilities to accommodate them.

Operational Plan

The workforce analysis and the review of the employment system provides the employer with a useful base from which to develop a diversity work plan with realistic goals and timetables. This work plan is a document that describes how proposed actions are to be achieved. For example, the city of Montreal is trying to diversify its police force members, the objective being to increase the proportion of visible minorities so that it mirrors the diversity of Montreal’s population (Visible minorities make up 34 percent of Montreal’s population, according to the 2016 census). There were only 359 visible minority officers of the 4,456-member force in 2019 (8%), compared to 310 (7%) in 2014. For many, this mere one percent increase in five years is not sufficient and the city has engaged in a series of recruiting events in specific neighbourhoods to try to increase the number of minority applicants (see this article that outlines the city’s effort).


Each plan is unique to each organization. Some may target specific occupations or designated groups while others may be more general. The success of these plans depends on top management’s commitment to the process, how the roles are defined, the resources available, and the effectiveness of communication strategies.

Evaluation, Monitoring, and Revision

Using hard data (stock and flow) is important to monitor progress of diversity initiatives. With careful monitoring, the employer can evaluate overall success of the initiatives and also respond to organizational and environmental changes.
Annual progress reports should be provided to all employees to communicate initiatives and achievements. Take the 2019 RBC Diversity Report which details the efforts made by RBC to increase the diversity of its workforce.


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Human Resources Management - 2nd Ontario Edition Copyright © 2022 by Elizabeth Cameron is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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