Myth #1: Employment equity is all about quotas
Facts: Employment equity does not involve setting hiring “quotas”, which are fixed numerical requirements for hiring. What it does do is require employers to analyze their workforce, and to set their own numerical goals based on the composition of the labour force as a whole, and a number of other factors. They then must put in place measures that will allow them to make progress on those goals over time.
Employment equity also requires employers to take other steps to achieve a more equal workplace, including making their policies and practices more inclusive and removing discriminatory barriers.
Myth #2: Employment equity means hiring unqualified people
Facts: Employment equity does not impact on the employer’s ability to set qualifications for a job and require that all applicants meet those qualifications, as long as they are bona fide. The federal Employment Equity Act and the Public Service Employment Act both reflect this reality and recognize that qualifications and merit are concepts that incorporate employment equity rather than conflict with it.
Employment equity is about removing barriers in hiring practices to ensure that otherwise qualified designated group members are not denied jobs based on factors unrelated to their ability.
Myth #3: Employment equity is “reverse discrimination”
Facts: The purpose of employment equity is to remove longstanding barriers to employment and career advancement for historically disadvantaged groups – Aboriginal peoples, women, people with disabilities, and racialized people. And it is about correcting injustices, both past and present, including racism and discrimination, which have prevented members of designated groups from accessing the same employment opportunities as others.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights laws recognize employment equity measures are necessary to create a more just society. Therefore, special measures may be put into place in order to correct longstanding injustices. The purpose of these measures is to equalize opportunities in the workplace, not to discriminate against one group or another.
Myth #4: Because of employment equity, there are no more job opportunities for white able-bodied men.
Facts: Employment equity is about ensuring opportunities for all, not taking away opportunities from anyone. It is to ensure that jobs are allocated fairly and equitably.
Employment equity measures do not mean that all new jobs are designated for equity group members – it simply means that they must have access to their fair share of job opportunities. The goal is to achieve a workforce that is representative of our diverse society, at all levels.
Myth #5: With changing demographics, employment equity will just happen over time, we don’t need to intervene. The market can take care of things without government intervention.
Facts: We know that discrimination exists and that barriers continue for women, Aboriginal peoples, racialized people, and people with disabilities. These barriers will not disappear without intervention. To quote Justice Rosalie Abella: “If we do not act positively to remove barriers, we wait indefinitely for them to be removed. This would mean that we are prepared in the interim to tolerate prejudice and discrimination. …It is in the act of remedying the inequity that we show our commitment to equality.”