EMPLOYMENT EQUITY PROGRAM POLICY
The purpose of this policy is to outline the Commission’s approach to equity programs and to set out the requirements for approval of equity programs under section 55 of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, 2018. Section 55 authorizes the Commission to approve programs designed to prevent, reduce, or eliminate disadvantages experienced by groups of individuals because of a prohibited ground of discrimination.The Commission may approve programs undertaken to improve opportunities in the areas of public services, accommodation, employment, or education. Where necessary, the Commission may order or apply to the Court to order such programs in line with section 55 of The Code. Nothing done for the purposes of an approved program is a violation of The Code.
3. The Potential Range of Equity Programs
The Commission’s approach to equity programs is based on flexibility, accessibility and accountability, and as such encourages new and creative strategies. Partners must make a commitment to the objectives and principles outlined in section 4 of this policy, and to fulfill the requirements outlined in section 5. This commitment is a condition of Commission approval, which will take effect when the Commission and the partner sign an Equity Partnership Agreement.
Without limiting the nature of requests brought to it for approval, the Commission intends equity programs to include the following possibilities:
(1) Broad initiatives designed to address widespread patterns of disadvantage experienced by one or more equity groups. Typically, programs involve many components and many strategies for reaching equity goals.
(2) A single strategy or limited range of actions intended to benefit one or more equity groups. For example, an employer may simply wish to hire preferentially, without developing a comprehensive program that addresses training, retention and other issues. Initiatives of this kind may be dealt with under section 56 of The Code.
(3) Contracts entered by government or businesses on a preferential basis in order to achieve the goals of section 55 of The Code.
(4) Joint initiatives undertaken by trade unions and employers to promote employment opportunities for equity groups.
(5) Initiatives undertaken to improve housing accommodation or public services to members of equity groups.
(6) Removal of systemic barriers to the career and educational progression of members of the equity group.
The Commission requires all Equity Partners to make a commitment to the following principles and objectives:
(1) To support the fundamental objectives set out in section 3 of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, 2018; that is,
(a) to promote recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family; and
(b) to further public policy in Saskatchewan that every person is free and equal in dignity and rights and to discourage and eliminate discrimination.
(2) To support the principle that cultural diversity is a fundamental human value.
(3) To support the principle of equality of opportunity.
(4) To foster the full potential of all individuals and promote their contribution to the creation of a prosperous, harmonious and inclusive society.
(5) To improve opportunities for equity groups in the areas of employment, education, accommodation or public services.
(6) To recognize the reality that individuals may experience disadvantage because of more than one prohibited ground of discrimination. Further, to consider whether additional measures are advisable where individuals face multiple barriers because they belong to more than one of the four original equity groups: Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, visible minorities and women in underrepresented occupations.
(7) To support the establishment of links and partnerships between equity initiatives in employment, education and public services.
Equity Partners are required to meet the following requirements:
(1) The program must be designed to prevent, eliminate, or reduce disadvantages related to a prohibited ground of discrimination.
(2) The program must improve opportunities in services, facilities, accommodation, employment, or education.
(3) Except where the Commission recognizes in this policy (as amended from time to time) that a group experiences disadvantage in Saskatchewan, an Equity Partner will illustrate that it is appropriate to designate a group as an equity group for the purposes of section 55 of The Code.
(4) The partner must illustrate the existence of disadvantage within its own organization – both at the initial approval stage and in periodic progress reports – for the equity groups addressed by its program.
(5) The partner will undertake to implement its section 55 program in a fair and reasonable manner that takes into account the relevant interests of all persons affected by the partner’s actions.
(6) The partner agrees that no person shall be laid off, terminated, or demoted in order to implement a section 55 program.
(7) Where a partner employs unionized employees, the partner will obtain the trade union’s support for the equity program and will ensure the trade union’s ongoing involvement in the program’s implementation. If the partner is unable to obtain trade union’s support, the Commission may approve the partner’s program if the partner demonstrates that it has made concerted efforts to obtain trade union support and that Commission approval of the partner’s program will advance the purposes of section 55 of The Code.
(8) The partner acknowledges that approval of an equity program does not authorize the breach of a collectively bargained agreement.
(9) The partner supports the sharing of information and resources relating to the equity program among Equity Partners and other community partners.
(10) To ensure public accountability, the Partner will submit to the Commission on an annual basis, a one to three-page report in the prescribed format. Submission of the annual report is a condition for the renewal of a partner’s equity plan approval. (See Appendices C, D and E)
(11) The partner undertakes to maintain transparency of programs and accountability for special measures approved under section 55 of The Code.
The Commission’s mandate is to protect the human rights of all Saskatchewan residents, therefore it has been careful to require statistical or other evidence of significant, widespread disadvantage before designating equity groups. To date, the Commission has approved equity programs for four groups: Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and women in underrepresented occupations. These groups have been denied equality of opportunity and benefit in important areas of public life.
The Commission also recognizes the reality that some individuals experience discrimination for more than one reason. One kind of disadvantage can intersect with and compound the negative effects of another. The Commission will therefore ask all partners – even those choosing to focus on one equity group – to consider whether additional special measures are advisable where individuals face multiple barriers because they belong to more than one of the four original equity groups.
Further, the Commission may approve any equity program that addresses disadvantages experienced by at least one equity group. It will consider approvals linked to any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, so long as an applicant fulfils the requirements of section 55 of The Code: evidence of disadvantage; evidence that the disadvantage is related to the prohibited ground of discrimination; and evidence that the proposed program is likely to reduce disadvantage.
If the Commission itself has already noted that a group experiences disadvantage in a particular context, a partner will not be required to illustrate this fact. With a new group or in a novel context, however, the Commission will ask the partner to provide a rationale for the requested approval. The Partner will demonstrate that the new group meets the requirements set out in section 55 of The Code and by this policy for the approval to be granted.
7. Parameters and Long-Term Goals
The fundamental goals of equity programs can be expressed as principles of fairness/equity and inclusion. Equity in employment means a representative workforce that mirrors the working-age population in all occupations and at all levels, and supportive work environments that promote the participation of all groups. Equity in education requires an inclusive educational system that provides fairness of benefit to all students.
Partners need concrete, measurable goals and ways of assessing progress towards them. Goals may be quantitative or qualitative. Where disadvantage can be expressed in numerical terms, the parameters for special measures will typically reflect the extent of disadvantage.
In the employment area, numerical indicators are readily available. The Commission looks at Statistics Canada data to develop a picture of Saskatchewan’s working age population. Because one goal of employment equity is simply a workforce that mirrors the community as a whole, this picture also constitutes the program’s long-term goals. Qualitative goals include subjective factors such as job satisfaction and positive working relationships.
Indigenous Peoples, visible minorities and people with disabilities often experience systemic disadvantage in the educational system; students may also experience disadvantage because of gender. Quantitative indicators of success could include graduation rates and the representation of equity group members in teaching and non-teaching positions. Qualitative indicators might include the educational experience of equity groups, or success at overcoming racism and other obstacles. The Commission will, in consultation with educational partners, set numerical goals for educational initiatives.
With regards to new equity groups or novel situations, the Commission will require potential partners to suggest appropriate parameters or limits for the use of special measures. The suggested parameters will be subject to approval by the Commission. Where the Commission itself provides parameters for special measures, partners will not be asked to propose them and will be required to comply with the Commission’s measures
(i) Commission’s Progress Report – The Commission asks partners to provide periodic statistical and narrative reports, in order to assess progress and ensure public accountability of equity programs.
In May 2003, the Provincial Auditor reported on another government program designed to ensure workforce representation of Indigenous Peoples at all occupational levels in proportion to their provincial population. The Provincial Auditor noted the importance of reporting on progress towards this goal, and of taking steps to ensure the information it reports is consistent and comparable. He recommended joint evaluation by government and employers of progress towards measurable objectives that include both activities and results. He also recommended the development of definitions for key terms, and a requirement of written action plans and progress reports from each participating employer.
The Commission should meet comparable standards in its approval and monitoring roles. At the same time – in keeping with its desire to make the overall equity program as flexible, accessible and “user-friendly” as possible – the Commission will endeavour to keep annual progress reports brief, simple, and meaningful to partners as well as the general public. Partner reports are public documents, and will be posted to the Commission’s website. The Commission will ask partners to use a standard reporting format, for ease of navigation as well as comparability.
While ensuring the transparency of equity programs, progress reports also provide a rich source of information for other partners and community organizations. The Commission’s equity sub-site launched in October 2003, is intended to be a springboard for dialogue, resource sharing, and the development of best practices.
The Commission will seek ongoing input on the most valuable reporting formats, and will refine them on a continual basis in collaboration with partners, community groups, and other interested parties.
(ii) Equity Partners’ Annual Report – The Commission requires partners to submit an annual report of one to three pages of their Equity Plans indicating the metrics of the plan to show the successes and challenges of the plan.  Equity Partners are to keep statistical and narrative reports on the program to be used to deliver an annual report to the Commission. The statistics and narratives are required in order to assess the progress, review and update as necessary, and ensure public accountability of equity programs. Submission of the annual report is a condition for the renewal of the program approval given to the Equity Partner.
(iii) Equity Partner’ Forum Report  – Partners are required to attend an annual equity employer’s forum and to provide a one-page report (different from (i) above) to the Commission capturing one equity initiative implemented in the year that was notably successful.
The forum is convened by the Commission annually to bring partners together as a community of practice to share experiences on the implementation of Equity Plans. The forum reviews best practices in the implementation of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. It allows partners to work collaboratively to develop more efficient ways of dismantling barriers to effective participation of members of Equity Groups in the workplace. Partners are required to attend the forum and to provide a one-page report to the Commission on one equity initiative implemented in the year that was notably successful.
The format of the forum is determined by the Commission, and includes presentations by partners with outstanding Equity Plans, subject matter experts, representatives of the four Equity Groups, and other stakeholders. The focus of the forum is finding practical ways of addressing workplace discrimination and systemic racism which limit the participation of members of the Equity Groups in the workplace.
10. Employment and Education Equity Advisors
The Commission will designate one or more of its staff as an Employment and Education Equity Advisor, to provide information and support to Equity Partners and members of the public on the Equity Programs.
- Answering Partners, prospective Partners, stakeholders and members of the public’s enquiries about the program.
- Processing applications for prospective Equity Partners.
- Ensuring that Equity Partners deliver annual reports on their equity plans to the Commission.
- Provision of an annual report to the Commission on the Equity Program.
- Periodic review of the Equity Program, to advise the Commission as may be necessary.
Adopted by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission on December 10, 2014.
 See Approval Requirements (#5)
 See Equity Partners’ Forum (#9)