Ensuring equity, diversity and personal safety in the workplace

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and equitable workplace for all employees. There are many ways to foster a diverse and inclusive environment. We've put together some of the most commonly asked questions that we've received, as well as some external resources to guide you.

Are you a student? Please see our equity, diversity, mental health and personal safety information for students.

FAQs: Equity during the hiring process

What are my legal responsibilities in hiring for diversity?

When am I permitted to ask about an employee's disability?

In an interview, it is illegal to ask a candidate whether they have a disability. However, it is good practice to ask if they need an accommodation to perform the job after a job offer has been made.

After describing the job thoroughly in the interview, you can ask the candidate if they are able to perform the essential functions of the job. You can also ask how they would perform specific job-related functions.

You can find more details about what you can and cannot ask in the Employment Equity Act and on the Canada HR Centre website.

How can I make my hiring process inclusive, fair and effective?

  • Reach out through a variety of media to advertise your job opening.
  • Hire staff based on competencies. When writing job postings, list the skills, knowledge and attributes required for the job.  This way, you focus on attracting applicants who can do the job. In your interviews, ask questions that tell you whether the person has the ability to do the job—this way, you focus on ability, not disability or other perceived challenges.
  • Be proactive—create a hiring atmosphere that promotes inclusiveness. For example, choose an interview space that is well lit, spacious and accessible.
  • Be sensitive to applicants’ needs and accommodate them during the interview process. For example, if you’ve been informed in advance that an applicant is hearing impaired or has a learning disability, you could provide the questions in written form in addition to asking verbally. For a candidate who uses a wheelchair, ensure that your interview space is accessible.

How can I hire a diverse team?

When hiring, consider incorporating practices that attract employees from diverse backgrounds to your workplace. A diverse team can increase innovation and productivity and attract a broader clientele to your business.

A diverse team might include employees of different race, ancestry or ethno-cultural origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, family status and mental or physical ability.

Sector organizations often have helpful resources to help you with attracting and hiring qualified employees from diverse populations. For example:

Provincial resources on hiring a diverse workforce

The province where you operate your organization may have information and resources that answer your specific questions. They also may have specific insights into special populations in your area and information about funding available in the province. Here are some examples:

Specialized organizations:

Read about specific populations to understand the value they bring to your organization and how you can take steps to include them. For example:

  • Immigrant Employment Council of BC: Connects employers with immigrant talent to improve their bottom line, build local communities and grow the economy.
  • Inclusion BC: Information on workplace inclusion of people with developmental disabilities.
  • Mental Health Works: How to approach hiring to include people with disabilities, including those with mental health issues.

FAQs: Creating a safe and inclusive workplace

What are my legal responsibilities for providing a diverse, welcoming and safe workplace?

Employers are obligated by federal and provincial law to provide a safe workplace for all employees.

A welcoming workplace is one that focuses on employment equity, treating everyone with fairness and taking people’s differences into account. Employment equity can mean treating people equally despite their differences. It may also mean treating people as equals by accommodating their differences.

How can you foster a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Encourage and celebrate diversity and build awareness of what this diversity might mean in your workplace.  Strive to build diversity into the planning and structure of your workplace and communicate this to your employees. You can also provide diversity and cross-cultural training to staff. The following resources may be helpful:

Local (Victoria) resources:

  • Safe Harbour Program A nationwide initiative for local organizations who wish to take a leadership role in creating an environment where all members of our community feel safe and welcomed. The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria is the Safe Harbour community representative for Victoria and provides no-cost, two-hour Safe Harbour sessions to local businesses and agencies. Member organizations commit to being a Safe Harbour member and display a Safe Harbour decal on their agency’s entrance window.
  • Resource groups in Victoria

British Columbia resources:

Canadian resources

How can you prevent sexualized violence in the workplace?

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.

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

Sexualized Violence often occurs in situations where there is a power imbalance between two or more people. Students can be particularly vulnerable to sexualized violence in the workplace due to their relative age, knowledge and experience, and financial and social security as compared to employers. Employers therefore need to be particularly attuned to how their words and actions may be perceived or experiences as coercive and an exercise of power. Under the UVic policy, “consent cannot occur when one person abuses a position of trust, power, or authority over another person”.

What should students do if they experience or witness sexualized violence?

If a student experiences or witnesses 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 the student feels most comfortable.

UVic's 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 students clear information on the options available to them under the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Policy. These include making a disclosure and/or a formal report under that policy – students can contact the office for confidential information on what these options entail.

Students can also contact their co-op coordinator if they feel comfortable - they will work with students 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

Other UVic resources:

How do I integrate a new employee into the workplace?

All new employees require orientation to the physical workplace and an understanding of the expectations of their position. Be aware that hiring for diversity may mean some employees have additional questions that don’t typically come up with other new employees. The approach you use to introduce any new employee to your workplace should use common sense and focus on the person’s abilities.

Help employees at all levels to talk about their concerns with dealing with elements that are new to them in the work environment. Communicating with all of your staff will help remove any barriers by getting issues out into the open.

Related resources:

What is reasonable accommodation?

Accommodation encompasses any modification or support that allows a person to do his or her job. This includes altering architectural features of the building, adapting work processes, and providing tools that an individual uses in the course of daily work. According to the Canadian Human Rights Code, accommodation is required when an employee’s disability results in "functional limitations" preventing them from performing an "essential duty" of their job. Accommodations are "reasonable" so long as they don’t impose "undue hardships" on the employer.

Usually, accommodations are easy to implement, relatively inexpensive and demonstrate a commitment to a healthier and more equitable workplace.

Related resources:

What will resonable accommodations cost?

The cost of accommodations as a barrier to hiring persons with disabilities is often overstated. Mostly, accommodation turns out to be a combination of flexibility about hours, job requirements and possibly some technology.

Sample accommodations and costs

  • Changing a desk layout from the right to the left side for a data-entry operator who has a shoulder injury ($0)
  • Supplying a telephone amplifier for a computer programmer who is hard of hearing ($70)
  • Providing an articulating keyboard tray to alleviate the strain of repetitive motion and carpal tunnel syndrome ($150)
  • Providing a specialized chair for a district sales agent to alleviate pain caused by a back injury ($400)
  • Providing a drafting table, page turner and pressure-sensitive tape recorder for a sales agent with paralysis ($1,100)

The vast majority of people with disabilities who are currently employed require no special workplace accommodations whatsoever. Employees with disabilities can often be accommodated by simply moving furniture.

 

What resources are available to train staff in diversity?

  • The Government of Canada provides a range of related resources, with tips to share with all employees in your organization.
  • The Government of Alberta provides online diversity training for employers called Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. The course touches on topics such as diversity, awareness, communication and dealing with resistance to organizational change.
  • The Community Partnership Network (CPN) helps organizations and businesses in Victoria develop the capacity to attract, welcome and integrate newcomers while building welcoming communities.
  • Mental Health Works provides a range of resources on everything from talking to employees struggling with mental health issues to understanding legal rights and responsibilities, employers can find resources here to help make their workplace more mentally healthy and psychologically safe.

These resources can provide further information: