On July 14, 2021, Federal Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi announced that the federal government is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Employment Equity Act. The review will be conducted by an Employment Equity Review Task Force chaired by McGill University law professor Adelle Blackett, supported by two vice chairs who are also professors. A complete list of the 13 members of the Task Force, along with their biographies, can be found here.
The Task Force is charged with studying the following areas:
- How to redefine and expand equity groups;
- How to better support equity-related groups; and
- How to improve accountability, compliance, enforcement and public reporting of employment equity.
The Task Force’s final report is expected in 2022. The complete Terms of Reference for the Task Force can be found here.
It should be noted that Federally Regulated Employers – Transportation and Communication (FETCO), a leading association of federally regulated employers, has been calling on the federal government to review the Employment Equity Act for several years. FETCO, through its Employment Equity Committee, will be consulting with federal employers in the course of developing submissions to the Task Force. In addition, individual employers will have the opportunity to make their own submissions. We will provide an update when we have more information about the submission process.
Introduced in 1986, the Employment Equity Act was intended to promote fairness, equality and diversity in federally regulated workplaces by identifying and removing systemic barriers to participation and promotion for four identified groups, being women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities
The Act applies to federally regulated private-sector employers with 100 or more employees and to most federally regulated Crown corporations and public sector employers. Currently, private sector employers in connection with a business of a local or private nature in Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut are exempt.
In order to comply with the current Employment Equity Act, each affected employer must undertake a process whose key components include:
- Providing an opportunity to each employee to self-identify as a member of one of the four identified groups;
- Conducting a workplace analysis to identify underrepresentation of designated groups;
- Conducting a review of all workplace policies and practices to identify systemic barriers;
- Preparing an Employment Equity Plan to eliminate identified barriers in the short and long term and set numerical goals for representation of designated groups; and
- Reporting annually on its progress to the identified federal government ministry, currently the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has jurisdiction to enforce the Act. In the event of non-compliance by an employer, the CHRC may order the employer to take corrective action. The CHRC may also refer a case to the Employment Equity Review Tribunal established by the CHRC if the employer fails to comply with the direction given, or requests a review of the direction.
If you have any questions about the Employment Equity Act or the Task Force, or any questions relating to workplace law in the federal sector generally, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.