Factsheet 6

Communication and Consultation on Employment Equity

Communication

An employment equity communications strategy is one of the most effective and useful tools available to an organization. A communications strategy will help ensure employees understand employment equity, and help the organization to achieve its employment equity goals. A good communications strategy allows an organization to clearly share the employment equity priorities it is aiming to achieve. Through consultation, the communications strategy helps foster an environment where dialogue is encouraged and promoted. Employees and managers will feel that their opinions, ideas and thoughts have been heard and are considered. 

A communications strategy should be developed early-on in the context of employment equity programming. From the outset, it should be clear who is responsible for developing and implementing the communications strategy. Organizations can choose to delegate the communication responsibility to one individual (preferably a senior executive) or share the work among the employment equity committee. Either way, it is important that any communications be clearly supported from the highest levels in the organization, the union, as well as the employment equity committee if it is to be credible. In the context of an employment equity audit, organizations have to demonstrate that:

  • Information is provided on the purpose of employment equity;
  • Information is provided on what the organization is doing to achieve employment equity and the progress made to-date;
  • Information is provided to employees, new hires, managers and staff involved in employment equity activities;
  • Information is provided on a regular and continuing basis; and
  • The material is clear, comprehensible, kept up-to-date and can be made in alternate formats upon request.

Consultation

Developing and implementing an effective employment equity plan often involves committing to a significant organizational change process that will ultimately affect all employees. Regularly communicating timely information to all employees is a necessary requirement for success. A second, equally important requirement, is to engage representatives from all levels of the organization in an effective consultation process. Done properly, consultation harnesses the broad experience of the organization’s diverse workforce, substantially improves the information base on which decisions are made, taps into a valuable source of creative solutions, and significantly increases the chances for support of the resulting plan. The challenge for any organization will be to ensure the diversity of the workforce is well represented and that there is an opportunity for all views to be heard. The Act requires organizations to consult and collaborate with employee representatives and bargaining agents about most aspects of the employment equity process. To meet this obligation, an Employment Equity Committee may be established that will: 

  • Allow for comprehensive discussion of employment equity related topics;
  • Provide continuity of membership for continuity of knowledge in addressing employment equity concerns and advancing the employment equity plan;
  • Regularly review the progress made in implementing the employment equity plan, including recommending remedial actions where required and following up on these recommendations;
  • Regularly review the gaps in representation by designated group and occupational group, proposing actions to be taken when new gaps open or existing gaps fail to close and following up on the proposed actions;
  • Be involved in the ongoing communication of employment equity to employees;
  • Review any new or amended employment equity policies/practices to ensure no new barriers are created for designated groups; this review should occur before the policy/ practice is finalized;
  • Contribute to increasing the awareness of its members regarding employment equity, systemic discrimination, accommodation, accessibility, and human rights;
  • Record minutes to show that the mechanism is fulfilling the role regarding consultation and collaboration with employee representatives as stipulated in the Act; 
  • Have a defined access to senior management to convey its findings, recommendations, and to receive feedback from management; and
  • Have representation from all four designated groups, from managers and employees, and from union delegates.

In addition, organizations must maintain a complete record of consultations, including outcomes and decisions made. If the bargaining agents decline to participate in consultations, the organization must be able to demonstrate that every reasonable effort was made to obtain co-operation. The consultation process involves meaningful dialogue, although arriving at a mutually acceptable decision is not necessarily required. The following are examples of what would not be considered sufficient or meaningful consultation in terms of compliance with the Act:

  • Providing only an information briefing session at the end of the employment equity plan development process;
  • Starting a consultation process after the development of the plan;
  • Providing either written or oral information to representatives during the process without providing a forum for discussion;
  • Seeking representatives’ inputs without providing adequate information on which to comment or sufficient lead time in order to review the material or to have an impact on the proposed action; and
  • Seeking the assistance of representatives and subsequently ignoring all reasonable offers. 

For comprehensive information, please click on the following link: Step 1: Initiate an employment equity program.

Suggested approach

Using both interactive and passive communication is the best way for an organization to reach its target audience. Interactive communication can include seminars, meetings, town-hall discussions, and human rights celebrations, or other participatory tools. Passive communication, which generally is written communication, can consist of emails, posters, website information, newsletters, etc. 

To convey its message, an organization, in conjunction with its employment equity advisory committee, may choose the following approach which comprises six specific steps:

  • Analysis: At this stage, the organization will analyze the issue and the message that they want to share with their employees. They will also determine who their target audience is. For example, this could include human rights practitioners, frontline managers, union representatives, employees who interact with the public, etc. An environmental assessment of each target audience may also be valuable to understand how to position the human rights and employment equity messages.
  • Strategy development: The information collected in the analysis phase will be used to lay the foundation and establish the guidelines of the communications strategy for effective culture change with regards to human rights and employment equity.
  • Program and communication design: Following the guidelines established during the strategy development, the organization will determine the message, the visual or audio effect, and the medium they will use for each audience.
  • Pre-testing: To ensure the maximum impact and retention of the message by the entire organization, it is very useful to test the communication product on small sample of each targeted audience, especially if it involves significant production cost of the said material.
  • Implementation: At this point, the communication will be delivered to the audiences.
  • Evaluation and feedback: Finally, the organization may want to assess how well the message was received, what impact it may have had on the culture change objective, and which part of the communication strategy seemed to have the greater success versus the least success. Although evaluation is the last step of the approach, it is also an overarching step, as feedback is required along the process.

Promising practices

Over the course of many years, the Commission has audited many employers and identified activities that although not required can be very effective at promoting equality in the workplace, including adequate representation of the members of the designated groups.  Here are some examples:

  • Contacting specialized non-governmental agencies: There are a variety of non-governmental agencies with expertise in human rights related issues. Organizations may consult these non-governmental agencies to enhance their hiring policies, especially with regards to designated group members or to improve their employee retention program.
  • Involving targeted organizations: An organization that creates a special program may involve other organizations which will coach applicants for the program. For example, involving Native Friendship Center employees to be part of a committee managing a special program for Indigenous people.
  • Consultation on access to services: An organization can consult with the people who use its products and services to assess whether they meet their needs and expectations. For example, a financial institution might consult with local Indigenous communities to determine whether its banking services and products meet their needs and expectations, then make adjustments following the consultation. 
  • Themed meetings: To ensure that people with specific needs have access to transportation, a transportation company held discussions and shared ideas with its clients, stakeholders and community and industry members. The consultation took the form of meetings on specific topics.
  • Universal design and implementation of accessibility standards: A private sector organization established an external consulting group including a number of community organizations to ensure that its facilities were also accessible to its clients with reduced mobility and to those using strollers or guide dogs. Further to the group’s recommendations, the organization gave a training session on accessibility to all employees who deal with clients. It also carried out research on the universal design and implementation of accessibility standards. 
  • Community of Practice: An organization established a community of practice to foster collaboration and collective learning among members of its industrial sector about human rights issues. This network created a recognition program to support the participation of members and demonstrate the practical benefits of their contribution.
  • Accessibility: A federal government department has on their website an “Accessibility Features Statement”, indicating their commitment to making their website and forms accessible to all and indicating the options for those who require accommodation. It is important that organizations review their external communication on a regular basis and ensure that it is respectful and culturally appropriate. Additionally, some organizations offer programs and tools to assist organizations to accommodate their employees and/or members of the public. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion: A number of financial institutions websites are providing information to potential employees and customer’s information on diversity and inclusion and why it is one of their priorities. They are providing definitions of what is diversity and inclusion, why it matters, what they have learned, their objectives and provide resources and links. 
  • Consistency and Frequency: Some organizations have developed a practice of regularly communicating with their employees regarding human rights policies and procedures and employment equity matters. Keeping employees and clients regularly informed will promote and create an inclusive environment. This can be done via newsletter, email and intranet for employees. Information could also be posted on the Internet for clients and the public (e.g. news releases). 
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