Equity offices proposes new policy

New guidelines will promote equitable employment standards, clarify outdated regulations

Heidi Penning, equity advisor at the Equity Office.
Heidi Penning, equity advisor at the Equity Office.

The Equity Office has proposed a renewal of Queen’s Employment Equity Policy, which hasn’t been revised since it was implemented more than a decade ago.

The revisal of the policy stems from plans to make it more readily available for the Queen’s community in order to ensure transparency within policy, said Irène Bujara, director of the Human Rights and Equity Office.

The purpose of the policy is to outline the need for equity in the workplace, and that Queen’s remains committed to a fair hiring process as indicated in Section 5(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The office of the Provost will now be responsible for the employment equity program, and the Equity Office will monitor the University’s commitment to the program.

She said the University is obligated by the federal government to have an equity policy, as Queen’s qualifies as a federal contractor.

To qualify as a federal contractor the organization must receive $1 million or more from the government, and employ more than 100 people, Bujara said.

The policy has been revised to be made clearer, she added. The existing policy wasn’t readily available to the public. “The policy is more precise in terms of who has responsibilities for what,” Bujara said. “Some of the precisions were there before, but not in a format people could consult.”

A transparent policy is important for employees and employers, she said.

“[A policy] should be precise about what exactly it is, who is responsible for each part of the policy, and the time frame for reviewing,” Bujara said.

She said the need for employment equity policies come from an understanding that there could be discrimination in the workforce.

“In the late 80s … it was a realization through [studies] that there were barriers [in the workforce] for certain groups in society,” Bujara said.

Women may continue to face a “glass ceiling”, which prevents them from advancing. Other barriers exist for historically-discriminated groups as well, she added.

“With employment equity, we want to look at our workplace and see if there are barriers for those particular groups … and remove those barriers,” she said.

The policy will not be implemented until the community gives the Equity Office their feedback. Changes may be made based on the feedback given.

Bujara said with strong employment equality in place, a more diverse body of employees may apply to work at Queen’s.

“We want to have the best people who include the full diversity of who’s in Canada,” she said.

She said the faculty who comes to work at Queen’s has an impact on students.

“[Diversity of faculty] connects with who is going to want to come and study with these researchers and teachers,” Bujara said. “You are only as good as the people within your institution.”

She said a diverse faculty reflects Canadian society and enhances an institution.

Heidi Penning, equity advisor at the Equity Office, said that Queen’s is more equitable then other institutions, as the school recognizes the LGBTQ community as having been discriminated against in the workplace.

“Queen’s has gone over and above federal designated groups … we recognize equity seeking groups such as the LGBTQ community,” Penning said. “We recognized that they have been disadvantaged in the workforce.”

She said the most important change in the policy is that employment equality will be communicated better.

“Policies are meant to be revised from time to time … and to be communicated,” Penning said.

“Policies are meant to be embraced by every member here so that they can see their role in contributing to and fostering work place equality.”

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