Fact Sheet #14b) Business Planning and Human Rights

Level 3

Element: Leadership and Accountability

Outcome 14: Management acts in accordance with their roles and responsibilities regarding human rights.

Indicator 14b): Working units have included appropriate elements of anti-discrimination and/or employment equity within their standard operational plans.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Inclusion in operational plans of retention and promotional strategies reflecting; Employment Equity (EE) principles.

Indicator Description

The purpose of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) is “[…]to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and; in the fulfillment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantages in employment experienced by women, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities.” [1]

Sec. 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act states:

“[…] all individuals should have an opportunity equal to other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated[…]” [2]

Therefore, each department, unit of business or functional area of an organization should give consideration to human rights and employment equity principles in all areas of employment and the provision of services. Leadership at all levels and in all areas of work will include anti-discrimination principles and employment equity in all standard operating procedures. 

Suggested Approach

  • Organizations can look at business planning and human rights by using organizational development concepts and incorporating human rights objectives.
  • Organizational development transforms the organizational culture (loosely, shared beliefs, values, and behaviors) by working with social and technical systems such as culture, work processes , communication, and rewards.
  • When developing business plans, managers can perform an organizational environmental scan. By doing so managers at all levels can: determine how best to serve customers; determine suppliers; look at their employment systems review to determine if there are gaps to be filled when determining the hiring needs of the organization; look at the financial aspects of all business decisions; and determine if policies and procedures related to business planning are non-discriminatory.  
  • Individuals perform work. It is therefore important, when doing business planning, to involve the human resources department up front. In this way an organization will:  "Integrate human resource management strategies and systems to achieve the overall mission, strategies, and success of the firm while meeting the needs of employees and other stakeholders. ” [3] This links human resources management directly to the strategic plan of your organization. Most mid-to large sized organizations have a strategic plan that guides it in successfully meeting its mission. Organizations routinely complete financial plans to ensure they achieve organizational goals, and while workforce plans are not as common, they are just as important.
  • Hiring systems should be inclusive and not present any barriers to employment for the members of the four designated groups in the EEA. Any barriers would have been identified in level two during the systems review. It is imperative that action now be taken to eliminate those barriers.

Promising Practice

  • Financial Planning: Consider setting up a budget line for accommodation funding to address needs of persons requiring accommodation.
  • Facilities - Planning and Renovations: When purchasing, leasing or renovating existing facilities consider Universal Design to allow for full accessibility for customers and employees.  Safety measures should be in place for persons with disabilities (see Canada Labour Code, Part II, National Building Code, National Fire Safety Code).  Be proactive and ask the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada – Labour Program for a workplace inspection. 
  • Information technology: Purchase systems and devices that are accessible to persons with disabilities.  Consulting with staff and experts on accessible design will ensure that all new equipment and software purchases allow persons with disabilities to use them.
  • Communications: Ensure websites are accessible to all. PowerPoint presentations are developed in line with accessibility standards. Training materials and all internal communications are available in alternate formats for person with disabilities e.g. Braille or oral for persons with visual impairment, close captioned materials for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing. Consider using Storytelling for Leaders. “This is a passionate alternative to the potential overuse of PowerPoint […] resolve that from now on, no presentation of yours will be totally electronic.” [4] 

One major urban centre in Canada has an office of diversity and inclusion.  Created in 2005, it supports departments in developing and implementing a strategic framework that builds diversity in the workforce, helps create respectful and inclusive practices and principles into policies, business plans, programs and services. 

With regard to strategic human resource management and employment equity, a Top 100 Employer in the 2011 Canada’s Top Employers competition has programs in place to equip persons from the four designated groups to apply and be successful on competitions for employment. 

Examples include:

  •  Aboriginal

    o  Aboriginal Line Trades Pre-Placement Program

    o  Awards, Bursaries and Scholarships

    o  Northern Aboriginal Placement Program

    o  Southern Aboriginal Placement Program

    o  Summer Student Opportunities

  • New Immigrants:

    o  Internationally Educated Engineer Qualification Program

  • Persons with Disabilities:

    o  Awards, Bursaries and Scholarships

    o  Summer Student Opportunities

    o  Vocational Integration for Individuals with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Program

  •  Women:

    o  Awards, Bursaries and Scholarships

Some of the highest-performing organizations in the world are also the best to work for. They actively help their people to contribute to the health and productivity of the organization. One actually lets people spend up to 15% of their time on their own projects! (Two results: Scotch tape and Post-It notes).

The president and chief executive of one Canadian financial institution is one of the inaugural recipients of the Catalyst Canada Honours for promoting women in the workplace. He is quick to point out that one person alone doesn't affect organizational change, that the entire leadership of the company has to buy in to the concept. "The tricky sell is that these initiatives have historically been seen as about quotas, favoritism, biasing your organization one way or the other. You have to really bust through the barrier to say it is not about that, it's actually about producing a true meritocracy rather than a false meritocracy." [5] Employees welcome these initiatives if they understand that the company's objective is to recruit good people and make them better. 

Useful links and tools

Building an Organization Based on Values – About.com

Strategic HR Planning - HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector

Tools for Leadership and Learning: Building a Learning Organization - The National Manager’s Community Council, Chartier, Bob

Cultural Competency Guide to Organizational Change- Department of Canadian Heritage, Western Region

Human Resources and Employment Equity – Manitoba Hydro

Diversity and Inclusion Planning – City of Edmonton


Argyris, C.; Schon, D. (1978), Organizational Learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, ISBN0201001748,

Nonaka, I.; Takeuchi, H. (1995), The Knowledge Creating Company, New York: New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN0195092694

Western, S. (2010), What do we mean by Organizational Development, Krakow: Krakow: Advisio Press , www.advisio.biz

Rother, Mike (2009), Toyota Kata, McGraw-Hill, ISBN,

Senge, Peter M. (1990), The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday/Currency, ISBN0385260946,    see also: The Fifth Discipline

[3] Herman Schwind, Hari Das and Terry Wagar, Human Resource Management: A Strategic Approach.

[4] Richard Arvid Johnson. Management, systems, and society : an introduction. Pacific Palisades, Calif.: Goodyear Pub. Co.

[5] Wendell L French; Cecil Bell (1973). Organization development: behavioral science interventions for organization improvement. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. chapter 8

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