Equity, diversity, mental health and personal safety at work

Every individual brings unique strengths and qualities to the workplace, leading to diverse opportunities to connect and collaborate. As an employee, you have the right to be treated equitably--below, you'll find answers to some of the most common questions about equity, diversity, mental health and personal safety in the workpace. If you need immediate help, contact us - we're here to support you.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

During the hiring process

Do I need to tell a potential employer about my disability or health issue?

Disclosing your disability is a personal choice. You are not required to disclose that you have a disability (including mental health issues) unless it interferes with your ability to carry out the essential functions of the job you’re applying for.

You may choose to disclose your disability:

  • to ensure your legal right to reasonable accommodation from your employer
  • if your potential employer has a commitment to hiring members of equity groups, including people with disabilities
  • if your disability has implications for your health and safety or that of your colleagues
  • to reduce the stress of hiding your disability

 You may choose not to disclose your disability:

  • because of the possibility that even enlightened companies with progressive policies may inadvertently discriminate

Adapted from Mental Health Works

When should I tell an employer about my disability?

You can choose to disclose your disability at any time: before the interview, during the interview, at the job offer or any time after you start the job. However, if your disability will affect your ability to do essential requirements of a job, it’s recommended that you disclose it to your potential employer before accepting the job offer. This is an opportunity to discuss any strategies you've found helpful.

Should I list my involvement in equity or diversity groups on my résumé?

Just like with any other information on your résumé, make sure the skills and experience you're listing from your involvement in these groups is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Check out how to deconstruct a job posting to help determine whether your experience is relevant to the job description.

How do I ask an employer about accommodation for my disability?

Your employer cannot bring up the topic of accommodation until after the job offer. However, you can choose to bring up accommodation at any time, even before the job offer, and the employer can then discuss it with you.

If you choose to disclose your disability, it’s important to let your employer know of any strategies you have in place to help you and whether you require any workplace accommodations.

Your employer has a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodation for your disability. You have a responsibility for “work-readiness”—to know what you require for accommodation as an employee and to provide appropriate notice to your employer.

If you will require accommodation right away on your first day of work, you may wish to bring up accommodation during the interview. Otherwise, you may wish to discuss it during your first few weeks at work. It’s never too late to ask for accommodation; you can bring it up whenever it seems appropriate for you.

If you’re unsure about what sort of accommodation might be helpful to you, you can discuss this with your co-op coordinator or career educator. We can help you consider various workplace-related accommodations.

In the workplace

How do I ask for time off for religious, cultural or health reasons?

The Employment Standards Act requires that your employer take reasonable measures to accommodate your needs for time off for religious, cultural, health or related reasons. When you start a new job, it’s a good idea to review the organization’s policies around holidays and entitlements for time off and sick leave. In a unionized environment, the first place to look is your Collective Agreement. Most importantly, talk to your supervisor and give them plenty of notice so they can cover the work you will miss.

If you are taking sick leave for a mental health issue, you are not required to disclose your diagnosis—sick leave includes both physical and mental illness.

Related resources:

What should I do if I feel like I'm experiencing harassment or discrimination at work?

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, no-one has the right to discriminate or harass you on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and unrelated or pardoned criminal convictions. If you're experiencing discrimination or harassment, speak to someone you can trust who is not involved in the conflict. If you feel that you have a case, you have a number of options. You can bring your concerns to your manager, human resources department, shop steward, Employment Standards office or provincial or federal tribunals.

Related resources:

What if I experience or witness sexualized violence at work?

Sexualized violence is defined as any non-consensual, unwanted actual, attempted or threatened act or behaviour, that is carried out through sexual means or by targeting a person’s sex, sexual or gender identity, or gender expression. The act or behaviour may or may not involve physical contact.

Sexualized violence can affect and involve individuals of all genders and sexual identities and can occur in any relationship, including family relationships, romantic relationships, casual encounters or by a stranger.

Examples of non-physical forms of sexual violence

Physical contact does not need to occur for an act to be sexualized violence. Examples of non-physical forms of sexualized violence include:

  • Intimidation
  • Verbal pressure
  • Sexual suggestiveness
  • Sexual jokes
  • Cat-calling or street harassment
  • Threats

Consent

Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in, and continue to engage in, physical contact or sexual activity. Consent means that all persons involved demonstrate, through words or actions, that they freely and mutually agree to participate.

What should you do if you experience sexualized violence?

If you experience or witness sexualized violence of any kind, there are a number of places to get support and learn about options. People respond to sexualized violence in different ways; through the various resources on and off campus you can reach out in whatever way you feel most comfortable.

The Sexualized Violence Resource Office is often the best place to reach out to first as they can explain all the support options available, in detail, and make direct referrals. They can also give you clear information on the options available to you under the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy. These include making a disclosure and/or a formal report under that policy – contact the office for confidential information on what these options entail.

You can also contact your co-op coordinator if you feel comfortable - they will work with you to connect you with the support options available on campus and off. UVic has many resources on the topic of sexualized violence.

Sexualized Violence Resource Office
Location: Equity and Human Rights, Sedgewick C119
Phone: 250.721.8021
Email: svpcoordinator@uvic.ca

What if my mental health is negatively impacting my performance at work?

As an employee, you have a responsibility to be a productive worker. When you are experiencing a mental health issue, you also have the right to reasonable accommodation. If you approach your conversation with your employer as a way to find the balance between your responsibilities and your rights, you can work together to find a solution. You don’t need to disclose the specifics of your diagnosis if you don't wish to.

Find out what resources and support are available to you through your employer, such as Employment Assistance programs and counselling. You should also find someone you can speak to in confidence. If your workplace has a work-life balance coordinator (usually located in the Human Resources office), he or she would be an appropriate person to contact.

If you are uncertain about how to approach this, you can talk to a career educator.

Related resources:

Can I talk about my involvement in equity groups in conversations at the office, or promote equity and diversity at work?

When talking about equity or diversity involvement in the workplace, it’s important to be considerate and inclusive of the diversity that already exists within your workplace. Also, be mindful of your workplace culture and whether these discussions are appropriate. If your employer has policies around equity and diversity, find out what they are before discussing or promoting your own perspective.

Related resources:

What should I do if I'm experiencing language barriers or feeling culturally isolated at work?

If you’re experiencing language barriers or feelings of isolation, you can discuss this with someone at work, such as your supervisor, a counsellor, HR specialist or union or employee representative.

The ability to build relationships and communicate your ideas clearly is valued in all work environments and other aspects of your life. Be proactive and seek out opportunities to interact with your coworkers in a variety of settings. This is a good chance to practice your communication skills, increase social confidence and build your network.

Related resources (in Victoria—look for others in your city):

How do I navigate cultural differences at work?

Canada is a very multicultural society and every workplace has its own culture with spoken and unspoken guidelines on appropriate behaviour. To navigate cultural differences at work, understand why there may be conflicting values, keep an open mind and look for opportunities to build positive relationships.

Related resources:

Where to find help

Take action now

Equity, diversity, mental health and personal safety resources (on campus)

Employment resources (BC)