Fact Sheet #18a) & 18b) Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Human Rights

Level 3

Element: Alignment of Policies and Processes

Outcome 18: Proactive multi-disciplinary approach to human rights involving various sectors of the organization is established.


18a): Involvement by various sectors/business groups/operational units of the organization in fulfilling the employment equity plan.

18b): Involvement by various sectors/business groups/operational units of the organization in establishing and maintaining effective practices for dealing with complaints.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Multi-disciplinary roles and responsibilities defined, adopted, and implemented.
  • Human resources plan of each operational unit includes measures to close employment equity representation gaps.
  • Hiring managers’ performance objectives.
  • Evidence that the organization conducts workforce “census” or surveys.
  • Group visuals in annual report, brochures align with policies and practices.
  • Documented follow-ups to disputes, complaints, and settlements.

Indicator Description

A multidisciplinary approach means that the organization will involve resources from various disciplines to look at the employment equity (EE) plan, or at the scope of a complaint, in a different way. The goal of this approach is to redefine issues outside of normal boundaries and find solutions or options based on a new understanding of complex situations. The Level 3 organization can then easily obtain relevant input from a variety of work groups across its structure and from community groups and clients on its practices for handling complaints and fulfilling its obligations under its EE plan.  

At Levels 1 and 2, the organization developed an EE strategy to respond to the requirements of the Employment Equity Act (EEA). It also improved its response to internal or external human rights complaints. At Level 3, the organization will draw on a comprehensive range of groups to implement the plan and further refine it. The organization will also involve other resources than the ones usually mandated to deal with complaints into the complaints resolution process. The organization is creating more opportunities for integration and pro-activity among its sectors. It manages human rights complaints and the implementation of its EE plan drawing on expertise from across the organization. Complaints management and EE strategies benefit from a wide variety of experience, expertise and knowledge.

For example, to make efficient use of expertise across work groups, the organization can set up a forum for gathering information and recommendations. The organization will want to consider the criteria to be used to determine membership in the multidisciplinary forum, as well as its role, responsibilities and any terms of reference for its work. A clear and shared understanding of goals among members of the team fosters openness in discussions, and engenders shared ownership of recommendations or other results. This shared ownership can increase the likelihood of adopting and carrying through on the recommendations on culture change stemming from the multidisciplinary approach.

Suggested Approach

Here are some of the ways of incorporating multidisciplinary thinking on human rights and EE into everyday business practices:

  • Create a multi-disciplinary team to review human rights grievance/complaints:  A multi-disciplinary team provides a way to more efficiently and effectively process complaints by combining input from relevant internal stakeholders such as operations, legal, policy, health and safety, information technology, etc. The team can meet regularly to review complaints, investigation plans and investigation reports. The teams can also provide information to other units of the organization on trends or issues that arise from the complaints. The approach provides an opportunity to draw on the corporate memory and varied experience of team members to spot trends and identify best approaches to complex cases, avoiding a "once size fits all" approach to complaints.
  • Make human rights a standing item on a joint labour-management meeting agenda: Responsibility for maintaining the Employment Systems Review can be shared beyond the human resources sector. Senior management can take the lead on systems review, and various sectors of the organization can have input into an ongoing review.
  • Consult with EE and human rights dispute management personnel during business planning sessions for each fiscal period: Using business planning sessions in this way gives a wide range of input into diversity and anti-discrimination responses, and can increase awareness of the connection between business lines and human rights across the organization.
  • Collaborate with your human rights champion: The organization’s human rights champion(See Fact Sheet #6a)) can play a key role in integrating cross-organization perspectives on human rights and EE into business planning. 
  • Establishing a true exchange in dialogue: “To facilitate a deeper exchange of views and ideas on (sometimes controversial) subjects (is) crucial to the success of a horizontal initiative.” [1]  Encouraging the various parts of the organization to work together thereby developing agreed to policies and the acceptance of those polices and their implementation is one of the central tasks of leadership.   

Promising Practices

  • Establishing ground-based teams to review human rights complaints: One agency has established ground-based teams to review human rights complaints. The members of those teams are representatives of various sectors of the agency. Because half of the members of those teams are from parts of the organization that do not routinely deal with human rights complaints, they bring new perspectives to cases when resolving the issues at stake or in making recommendations.
  • Using the internal HRMM Steering team: When embarking on the Human Rights Maturity Model (the Model) journey, many organizations created an internal steering team comprised of members from all sectors of the organization. Some organizations have used their Model Steering Team to review issues related to their EE plans or to human rights complaints. This practice combined experiences from across the organization with human rights knowledge developed through the Model experience.
  • Creating a broad based diversity committee: One organization has several diversity committees: one for each designated groups plus one for the gay/lesbian/transgender group and the official languages committee. This organization created a broad diversity committee with members coming from each of these specific groups. This Committee of committees’ reviews policies and procedures with an EE lens including each members’ experience and perspective.  

Useful Tools and Links

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

Employment Equity: Frequently Asked Questions - Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Guidelines (Archived) - Human Resources and Skills Development Canada    

Managing Complexity: Lessons of Horizontal Policy-Making in the Provinces (Sask. Institute of Public Policy)   

Shared Accountability for Horizontal Initiatives: Lessons and Good Practices for Service Canada   

Guidelines on Developing Human Rights Policies and Procedures: Barrier Review and Barrier Removal Plans, Ontario Human Rights Commission 

Horizontal Leadership Instrument- An online questionnaire to assist in reflecting on how ready your organization is to embrace horizontal (multidisciplinary) leadership strategies

[1] Moving from the heroic to the everyday: lessons learned from leading

horizontal projects, CCMD Roundtable on the Management of Horizontal Initiatives, par Mark Hopkins, Chantal Couture et Elizabeth Moore, p. 27 

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