Federal government's consultation: Modernization of Employment Equity Act

Upcoming changes from Ottawa could impact many workplaces

Federal government's consultation: Modernization of Employment Equity Act
Nadia Zaman

Exclusive to Canadian HR Reporter from Rudner Law.

If you are an employer, it is important to be mindful of potential upcoming changes that impact how you run your workplace.

One such change in the world of employment law is the federal government’s consultation on the modernization of the Employment Equity Act (EEA).

The consultation period opened on May 3, 2024 and will close on July 31, 2024.

Background on Employment Equity Act

In 1986, the EEA was created to overcome the barriers preventing marginalized communities from achieving their full potential in the workplace. The legislation mandates fairness, equality and equitable inclusion for employees in federally regulated workplaces.

As we all know, Canadian workplaces have evolved since that time, which necessitated that the EEA also evolve to reflect the realities of today’s workplaces. The federal government launched a task force to undertake the most comprehensive review of the EEA since its introduction back in the 80’s.

The EEA Review Task Force’s final report, titled A Transformative Framework to Achieve and Sustain Employment Equity, was released in December 2023. The report provides concrete, independent and evidence-based recommendations on how to bring the EEA into today’s times.

The federal government announced that it largely supports the recommendations made in the report for transforming Canada’s approach to employment equity. The government’s initial commitments to modernize the EEA include:

  • Creating two new designated groups under the EEA: Black people and 2SLGBTQI+ people
  • Replacing the term “Aboriginal Peoples” with “Indigenous Peoples,” and updating the definition to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit and to ensure it is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
  • Replacing the term “members of visible minorities” with “racialized people” and updating the corresponding definition
  • Aligning the definition of “persons with disabilities” with the Accessible Canada Act to make it more inclusive.

Consultation on Employment Equity Act changes

At this time, the federal government is consulting with affected communities and organizations representing unions and employers, on how best to effectively implement these changes, and how other recommendations made by the EEA Review Task Force could be implemented. The government will then introduce legislation to bring the EEA into the 21st century.

Indigenous partners and stakeholders subject to the EEA are the focus of this consultation, including:

  • equity groups
  • those under the federal jurisdiction, that is:
    • groups, associations and unions representing employees
    • private-sector employers and employers' groups and associations, and
    • public-sector employers and partners, such as:
      • Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
      • Public Service Commission
      • Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
      • Justice Canada
      • Women and Gender Equality Canada, and
      • Statistics Canada

The government also welcomes feedback from other interested parties.

In particular, the government seeks input on the current state of the EEA and ways to improve it, including the following key areas:

  • The purpose of the EEA
  • Designated groups (for example, definitions, terminology)
  • Collection of survey data
  • Support provided to employees and employers
  • Accountability, compliance and enforcement
  • Public reporting.

The government will take the feedback into account, which will inform the changes to the EEA. The feedback will also be summarized into a report and published online.  

Takeaways for employers

If you are a federal employer subject to the EEA, it would be wise to review the consultation paper, consider any feedback you may have (especially as it impacts your workplace), and provide the feedback to the federal government such that it can be taken into account when it makes the changes to the EEA.

If you are interested in participating, your feedback must be provided through the consultation paper. You can request a copy of the consultation paper by email at [email protected]. Those who are invited to a virtual roundtable session may provide additional feedback at the session held by the government.

Nadia Zaman is a senior associate at Rudner Law in Toronto. She can be reached at (416) 864-8500 or [email protected].

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