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Employment Equity in Saskatchewan

Everyone wants a secure job, with prospects for advancement and personal growth. But some groups have not had their fair share of employment opportunities.

Employment equity is a voluntary program that allows employers with approved plans to develop a representative workforce.

The basic goal of employment equity is an inclusive workplace that represents the diversity of our province. Its vision combines fairness, sound economic sense, and the equal participation and contribution of all groups.

Employment equity focuses on four groups who have not had equal access to jobs and promotions: women, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities. They are referred to as the designated groups.

What would a representative Saskatchewan workforce look like? Based on recent Statistics Canada data, 45% of its employees would be female, 12.2% would be Aboriginal, 9.7% would be people with disabilities and 2.8 % would be members of visible minorities.

Women and visible minorities are employed in representative numbers by many employers, but are concentrated in low-paid positions or excluded from decision making. Even among equity employers, Aboriginal people make up only 6.6% of the workforce and people with disabilities only 3.4%. This gap may grow as demographics change. Aboriginal people, for example are expected to represent 24% of Saskatchewan's population by the year 2025.

Another goal of employment equity is to create respectful and accommodating workplaces for everyone. Anti-harassment policies, for instance, benefit all employees, not just those who might experience sexual or racial harassment.

Discrimination against the designated groups continues to be a serious problem in Saskatchewan. Every year, between 75% and 80% of all complaints to the Human Rights Commission are based on ancestry, gender or disability. Sometimes discrimination can be unintentional, because traditional workplace policies, practices and structures can have unintended discriminatory effects. "Word of mouth" hiring, for example, tends to draw into the workplace people very similar to those already there. Physical barriers may go unnoticed by everyone except those affected by them.

Equity plans are needed to create genuine equality of opportunity within a reasonable period of time.

Employers under provincial jurisdiction can develop equity plans approved by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission under section 47 of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

Equity plans are developed cooperatively by employers, unions, employee representatives and the Commission.

An employer will establish its goals and a timetable to accomplish its objective. Within the framework of existing collective agreements, employers can make hiring or promotion decisions that will bring them closer to a representative workforce as defined by current labour force data. Employers can express preferences for designated group candidates in job ads and limit, with union consent, certain competitions to such applicants.

Flextime, job sharing, training, anti-discrimination policies, ergonomic design and technical aids are equity initiatives to make the workplace more comfortable for all employees.

For more information, contact the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in Regina at (306) 787-2530 or 1-800-667-8577, in Saskatoon at (306) 933-5952 or 1-800-667-9249, or by e-mail at shrc@justice.gov.sk.ca