Factsheet 5

What is an “Employment Systems Review” and an “Employment Equity Plan”?

Analysis of Employment Systems, Policies and Practices

The Employment Systems Review (ESR) requires an in-depth analysis of the organization’s employment systems, policies and practices formal and informal as well as the manner in which these are implemented. It must also capture attitudes, behaviors and corporate culture. This process helps identify barriers and employment obstacles faced by designated groups in its workplace.

In conducting the ESR, organizations must focus on each of the significant areas of under-representation identified in the workforce analysis. The workforce analysis summary identifies the specific designated groups and occupational groups that require attention in the ESR. 

As such, an organization must complete a thorough review of all documents pertinent to the occupational group being examined. This would include a review of human resource manuals, job descriptions, and written policies related to recruitment, selection, promotions, training and development, and terminations. In addition to looking at the documents themselves, this review must also consider how they are communicated and implemented. Keeping in mind the specific designated group that is under-represented, the document analysis must highlight any barriers that might account for the gaps. 

Policies are examined against a set of assessment measures to determine if barriers exist: 

  • Legality: The policy must conform to existing human rights and employment standards legislation. For example, when looking at your application forms and interviewing procedures (one aspect of the recruitment system), check to see if your application form or interview process contain questions that contravene provincial or federal human rights legislation. 
  • Consistency: Ensure that the policy is applied in an equitable and consistent manner. Policies governing access to training and guidelines concerning which courses are employer-funded should be the same for all employees. If they are not, designated group members may be subtly encouraged to stay in lower level jobs by being provided only training to perform their current jobs better, rather than developmental training to enhance their opportunities for advancement. 
  • Adverse Impact: Ensure that there is no disproportionate impact on designated group members. For example, when recruiting, the firm should not require that only persons with disabilities undergo a pre-employment medical. Do not require that candidates have diplomas, certificates or other formal criteria that are inconsistent with the needs of the job. Do not arbitrarily use height and weight requirements to screen candidates. All of these recruitment practices could constitute barriers to designated group members. 
  • Validity: The policy or practice must accomplish its proposed predictive or evaluative function. Validity questions often revolve around the issue of tests used to select candidates: Do people who score high actually perform well on the job? The practice must also be objective. Older tests, for example, may still contain gender or cultural bias. Ensure that tests are administered in such a way as to provide a positive atmosphere for the test-takers and to eliminate any bias that could affect their performance. 
  • Business necessity: Determine whether the policy or practice is necessary for the safe or efficient operation of the business and/or whether it is required by law or by a professional governing body (e.g., for doctors, nurses, teachers, automobile mechanics, electricians, engineers)? 
  • Job-relatedness: When a policy or practice is found to have an adverse impact, the employer must determine whether the requirement is a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR). A BFOR is an employment requirement that is necessary for the safe, efficient and reliable performance of the essential duties of a job. Ensure that educational and physical requirements are truly job-related and that hiring decisions are based on objective job-related criteria. Allowance should be made for equivalent experience or the ability to demonstrate skills relevant to the job duties.
  • Reasonable accommodation: Where a policy or practice is determined to be job-related but tends to exclude designated group members, the organization must determine whether it is possible to find an alternative method of implementation. An employer cannot justify a policy or practice with adverse impact if it can be shown that an accommodation is possible.
  • Corporate culture/attitude: corporate culture and attitudes are not policies or practices, but need to be included in an employment systems review because they can have a profound impact on designated group members. They often determine whether a workplace is welcoming or “chilly” for a designated group, thus affecting the hiring opportunities and retention rate for that group. A high turnover rate may not mean that the group is unable to do the work or is in some way unsuited for the work, but rather that the workplace is deemed to be unfriendly and does not offer opportunities for advancement. 

For comprehensive information, please click on the following link: Employment Equity Tasks

Interviews and Focus Groups

It is also important for organizations to conduct interviews or focus groups with managers, human resource staff and most specifically employees who are also designated group members. It is crucial to interview designated group members in the occupational groups in which they are under-represented and in the feeder groups to those occupational groups. This can provide valuable insights into how the organization actually recruits, hires, promotes as well as the cultural environment. This is particularly important since written policies and actual practices may not always coincide. The analysis must underline if the methods of recruiting, hiring, and promoting contain barriers to specific designated groups that are under-represented. In identifying barriers, two lines of questioning are crucial in understanding the experiences of designated group members. The first is to identify how a function is actually carried out and the second question is to understand if the given function has an adverse impact on the under-represented group. As such, questions about practices, attitudes, behaviors and culture should be asked in order to understand if they correspond to the organizations policies. 

Employment Equity Plan

The Employment Equity Plan flows from the ESR. An EE Plan is a document that sets out a plan (actions, timelines, persons responsible etc.) to address employment barriers and under-representation of designated groups. The EE Plan must respond to barriers identified in the ESR. Therefore, you have to complete an ESR before creating an EE Plan. A plan to conduct an ESR is not an EE Plan. It needs to contain the following:

  • Measures to remove any of the barriers identified in the ESR.
  • Positive policies and practices to ensure that all employees, including designated group members can work in a harassment-free and equitable workplace. Examples would be harassment and employment equity policies.
  • Special measures targeted to increase the representation of under-represented designated groups. These may include targeted recruitment, diversity training, etc. (Note: special measures should be specific to occupational group where gaps exists) 
  • Short-term hiring and promotion goals to eliminate the under-representation by occupational group.
  • Longer-term representation goals which commit the organisation to achieving full-representation.
  • A strategy to ensure the workplace is accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Clear timeframes and the identification of which person or people are responsible for the implementation and success of desired actions and outcomes.

For more information please consult: Employment Equity Tasks

Template of an Employment Equity Plan

Area of Analysis
Area of Analysis xyz
Gap Identified
  • xyz in xyz occupational Group
  • xyz in xyz occupational Group
Flow Data Results
  • xyz Recruitment
  • xyz Terminations
  • xyz Promotions


Employment Equity Plan of organization XYZ
Employment Systems Barrier Analysis Employment Equity Plan
Policies and Practices: a description of how things are experienced by designated group members in the organization. Barriers Identified: identification of policies and practices that could be a barrier to the specific designated group listed above

Measures to remove barriers: a description of activities that need to be undertaken to remove barriers.

Special Measures: a description of activities designed to achieve equity for a particular designated group

Timetable Accountability Performance Indicator
Recruitment policies and practices
Selection policies and practices
Training and development
Working conditions
Attitudes and corporate culture
Date modified: