Fact Sheet #3a) Policies and Processes Regarding Workforce Survey

Level 1

Element: Alignment of Policies and Processes

Outcome 3: Legal responsibilities under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) are recognized and Employment Equity Act (EEA) reporting requirements are initiated.

Indicator 3 a): Survey has been completed and reporting requirements are met.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Completed employer workforce survey.
  • Demographic equity representation data (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) or Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)).

Indicator Description

Organizations have legal responsibilities under the EEA with respect to the collection of workforce information. These obligations include 1) surveying the workforce using a self-identification questionnaire that includes definitions and information consistent with the EEA and the Employment Equity Regulations (the Regulations); 2) keeping the results of the survey up-to-date; and 3) keeping records of the method used to gather the information about employment equity (EE). Organizations also have reporting requirements concerning the submission of their employment equity data (EE data) to central government agencies, namely HRSDC for the private sector and TBS for the public service sector.

At Level 1, the organization recognizes the importance of equity in the workplace and seeks to have a better representation of its workforce in terms of the 4 designated groups. The organization initiates and ensures that all the work towards conducting the workforce survey is linked to its organizational plan and that it sits well with the mission and vision of the organization.

For example, the organization will provide adequate information about the purpose of EE and the reason for the self-identification survey prior to administrating the survey. It will track the return rate of the survey and follow up with employees who did not return its survey. It will also ensure the confidentiality in the process used to collect information on the workforce and in the storage of information regarding the survey. Then, on an annual basis, the organization will submit a report of its EE data and program to the respective central government agency to which it reports.

Suggested Approach

Activities related to conducting the workforce survey should have a strategic linkage to the organization’s mission, vision and business plans to foster a human rights culture. To do so, the organization could:

  • Create a team consisting of representation from management, human resources, bargaining agent(s) – in unionized workplaces – and members of each of the designated groups for consultation on the self-identification survey.
  • Develop a survey form that is consistent with the definitions and requirements of the EEA and Regulations and that provide adequate information about EE with specific examples.
  • Develop a process to be used to conduct the survey and to make the forms available in both electronic and hard copies.
  • Create a follow-up system to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to return their survey form.
  • Obtain senior management buy-in and approval to conduct the survey.
  • Remember that all information related to the workforce survey should be kept in a secured place. This includes copies of the information sheets that were handed out or e-mailed to employees, minutes of employment equity committee meetings, articles put in the company newsletter or published online, etc.
  • Keep the results of the workforce survey up-to-date. Remind employees, at least annually, that they have the right to change the information they have submitted or, if they have not filled out a form, that they are welcome to do so.
  • Consider contacting the employees who have not returned their forms, and request that the forms be returned. Remember that the self-identification is voluntary, but the return of the form can be mandatory.
  • Ensure that records of the survey are kept electronically so that the records could be used for yearly updates and for meeting reporting obligations. Whenever your organization is audited, the documentation could also be used as evidence.

Promising Practices

  • Choosing an appropriate method to conduct workforce survey: For various reasons, some EE designated group members are hesitant and do not see the need to self-identify. These reasons include privacy concerns; the perception that they are not being evaluated on the basis of merit; and the fact that they consider themselves as mainstream Canadians. Therefore, it is important that your organization choose a method to conduct its workforce survey that suits the type of work being performed, respects the organization's culture, and is welcoming and convenient for employees. One organization conducted a “Census Day” where senior management informed employees about its commitment and obligations under the EEA and encouraged them to complete the survey.
  • Mounting an effective campaign: To gain the trust and the participation from the employees during the self-identification survey process, some organizations ensure that management and bargaining agents collaborate so the plans and follow-up surrounding the workforce survey are communicated to all employees and are well understood.
  • Making the return of survey forms mandatory: Although the completion of the self-identification questionnaire relating to the four designated groups is voluntary, some organizations make the return of the survey form mandatory. When new employees are hired, the employer includes the survey form in the orientation package of the documents to be returned to the organization.
  • Using WEIMS: In the private sector, organizations use the Workplace Equity Information Management System provided by HRSDC to incorporate all data about EE and the workforce.

Useful Tools and Links

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

Initiating an Employment Equity Program - Step 1 (archived) - Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Good Practices for Employers Covered by the Employment Equity Act - Compiled by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - Labour Program

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