Employment Equity: A Glossary of Common Terms

Aboriginal Peoples: As defined in the Employment Equity Act, persons who are Indians (First Nations), Inuit or Métis.

Barrier: Barriers, for the purpose of employment equity, are defined as formal or informal policies or practices (written or unwritten) that disproportionately restrict or exclude designated group members based on factors unrelated to the nature of work, merit, or safety. Barriers can be obvious and direct, or they can be imbedded in systems and may seem neutral on their face but have negative impacts on a particular group.

Discrimination:  A denial of rights or differential treatment of an individual or group based on a certain characteristic such as their age, race, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, family or marital status, or disability.

Employment Systems: For employment equity purposes, the employment systems are: recruitment, selection, hiring, development and training, promotion, retention and termination, and accommodation.

Employment Systems Review: An examination of an employer’s policies and practices governing the employment systems, in order to determine if there are barriers to members of the designated groups embedded in any of those policies or practices.

External Representation: See “Workforce availability/labour market availability

Gap:   Also referred to as the “degree of under-representation.” For employment equity purposes, this refers to a situation in which a designated group has a lower representation in the workplace than their representation in the labour market.  The difference between the internal representation and the external representation, expressed as a negative number, is the gap.

Goals: Numerical and non-numerical objectives that an organization plans to achieve within a specified period of time.

Internal Representation: The percentage of employees in an organization that are from a designated group. Determined by dividing the number of designated group members by the total number of employees in an organization.

Labour force:  A term used by Statistics Canada which refers to Canadians who are in the labour market.  Defined as the portion of the Canadian population 15 years of age and over who were employed, unemployed and actively looking for work, or on layoff and available for work.

Persons with disabilities:

As defined in the Employment Equity Act, persons who have a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment and who:

a)       consider themselves to be at a disadvantage in the workforce by reason of that impairment; or

b)       believe that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be at a disadvantage because of that impairment.

This includes people whose functional limitations due to their impairment have been accommodated in their current jobs or workplaces.

Positive policies and practices: Initiatives that help create a respectful and responsive working environment for all employees, including designated group members, and that help attract increased numbers of individuals from under-represented designated groups into the organization’s workforce. Positive policies and practices go beyond the mere elimination of barriers; they replace barriers with a favourable work environment that actively promotes a representative workforce.

Representative workforce: An organization’s workforce is representative when the representation of each designated group in each occupational group in the workforce reflects the availability of the designated groups in the labour market.

Self-identification:    Under the terms of the Employment Equity Act, this is the way that individuals identify themselves to an organization, as a member of one or more designated groups. Self-identification is voluntary; the organization may only identify an employee as a member of a designated group with the express voluntary consent of the individual concerned. The organization must collect data on the representation and distribution of designated group members in its workforce in order to plan and implement its employment equity program.

Special measures:   Temporary measures, targeted at a specific designated group in a particular occupation (such as targeted recruitment or special training initiatives aimed primarily at correcting employment imbalances stemming from past discrimination, over a specified period of time). These measures are intended to expedite the recruitment, selection and promotion of qualified designated group members to achieve full representation.

Under-representation: Occurs when the percentage of designated group employees in an workforce occupational group is less than their percentage availability in the labour market

Visible minorities:    As defined in the Employment Equity Act, persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.

Workforce analysis: The assessment of an organization’s internal workforce. The purpose of a workforce analysis is to determine whether or not the representation of the four designated groups in the organization is consistent with their external representation in the labour market.

Workforce survey:   To obtain information on the composition of an organization’s workforce, a workforce survey is conducted. The organization must provide a self-identification questionnaire to all employees to determine the number of designated group members in each of the occupations throughout its workforce.

Systemic Discrimination: The institutionalization of discrimination through policies and practices which may appear neutral on the surface but which have an exclusionary impact on particular groups, such that they are discriminated against, intentionally or unintentionally. This occurs in institutions and organizations where the policies, practices and procedures (e.g. job requirements, hiring practices, etc.) exclude and/or act as barriers to designated groups.

Workforce availability/ labour market availability : Data for the designated groups compiled from the census and the survey on persons with disabilities, which provides the percentage of designated group members present in the Canadian labour force. This data is provided to employers according to geographic location and occupation.



September 20, 2013