Employment Equity Act review: Real change is long overdue 

PSAC wants to see sweeping recommendations to strengthen Canada's Employment Equity Act when the task force reviewing the Act releases its final report next month.

Real change for workers is long overdue. For more than two decades, our members, activists and human rights leaders have been calling for a review of the Act to ensure historically disadvantaged and excluded workers have equitable access to career opportunities in the workplace.  

In our full submission, we called for a proactive way of addressing systemic discrimination in workplaces – something that is well within the power of the federal government. 

These are the 10 recommendations we submitted to the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force in April to create progressive legislation that delivers meaningful change that workers deserve.  

  1. Terms in the Employment Equity Act (EEA) must reflect the same language used by equity groups: As our understanding of human rights evolves, so should the language we use to describe groups whose historical exclusion persists today through the lack of proper recognition and respect.  
  2. We need effective data collection that can lead to real change: Disaggregated data for each designated equity group is crucial yet missing from employment equity legislation. Within the same equity group, there are distinct intersections of identity and unique lived experiences.  
  3. The EEA must include the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as a recognized equity group: Strengthening 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in the federal public service is necessary. We know change can happen to support 2SLGBTQIA+ workers, and it’s about time. 
  4. Census data continues to be outdated and unreliable: By the time Employment and Social Development Canada and Treasury Board Secretariat calculate labour market availability and workforce rates, the data is already outdated. We need up-to-date and accurate labour market information for equity groups to better reflect the country’s population. 
  5. Changes made to the EEA must also lead to changes in the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and the Financial Administration Act (FAA): Equity groups consistently tell us that conflicts between the PSEA and the EEA stop them from moving up in the public service. It is time for the gaps in legislation meant to support equity groups in the public service to be addressed once and for all.  
  6. All complaint processes for workers related to staffing and discrimination must be reviewed: Without meaningful mechanisms for recourse, employer compliance with workers' complaints related to staffing and discrimination are meaningless. We want a foundation to build workers' rights in the EEA. 
  7. The task force must examine how the EEA can support action on accessibility: It is vital that the task force outline how the EEA can support the Accessible Canada Act. Workers with disabilities deserve better. 
  8. Bargaining agents should be able to negotiate provisions beyond what is included in the EEA: The Employment Equity Act should be the minimum requirements for equity in the workplace. The roles of bargaining agents need to be strengthened with direct access to an employment equity complaints process.   
  9. Federally regulated employers under the Federal Contractors’ Program must be held to the same standard as other employers: A provision was made in 2012 that removed equity requirements for contractors under the EEA. This needs to be reversed.  
  10. Wage gaps need to be addressed throughout the employment equity process: Requiring employers to only report wage gaps may raise awareness, but this does not actually compel employers to eliminate gaps in pay. Pay equity is a fundamental human right, and therefore must be comprehensively addressed in the Employment Equity Act.    

PSAC’s full submission to the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force 

PSAC membership survey report on employment equity  

Next steps  

Official consultations have closed for the Employment Equity Review Task Force. We will share our assessment on the impact of the task force report on PSAC members in early 2023.  

November 10, 2022