Fact Sheet #8a) Human Rights Consultation Structure
Element: Communication and Consultation
Outcome 8: Consultation is structured and ongoing on all aspects of human rights.
Indicator 8a): Organization has identified a resource or a forum with a function to consult with employees/employee associations/unions related to employment equity, as well as anti-discrimination.
Possible Measures and Data Sources:
- Terms of reference for the forum.
- Meeting minutes for the forum.
- Documentation showing that results of consultations were shared with senior leadership.
The Employment Equity Act (EEA) specifies employers’ responsibilities to develop and implement an employment equity program in consultation and collaboration with employee representatives, and gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) the authority to ensure compliance through the conduct of audits. At Level 2, the organization’s consultation is structured and ongoing on all aspects of human rights.
One of the nine requirements under the EEA that an auditor will examine is consultation. The auditor will verify the following:
- The employer consults its employee representatives by inviting them to provide their views on the assistance that the representatives could provide to the employer to facilitate the implementation of employment equity and towards the communication of employment equity matters to employees;
- The employee representatives are also invited to provide their views on the preparation, implementation and revision of the employment equity plan; and
- Employees participate in the consultation forum, where they are represented by bargaining agents, through representatives of the bargaining agents.
Having a human rights consultation structure in place in an organization will not only allow the organization to meet the requirement for consultation under the EEA, it but will also provide a vehicle whereby the organization can identify discriminatory policies, processes and procedures, and can work to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity. While the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) does not specify the need for consultation in the way that the EEA does, routine and open communication and consultation on issues relating to human rights can assist in increasing transparency and general knowledge in the workplace on these issues.
An employer can:
- Identify all types of committees present in the work place.
- Consider how discussions of human rights could arise in these committees, or could become part of the regular work of one or more of them.
- Select the committees whose work could have an impact on anti-discrimination policies and practices, or whose terms of reference could align it with a discussion of human rights questions.
- Ensure these committees are consulted and that their terms of references stress the fact that they will have to take human rights-anti-discrimination into account in their activities.
- It may not be necessary to create a new committee to facilitate the consultations; the organization can explore using the terms of reference of existing committees, such as a Labour-Management Committee, Workplace of Choice Working Group, Youth / Young Professionals Network, or Well-being Committee, to discuss human rights issues. For example, a Health and Safety Committee deals with many of the practices related to disability; the Well-Being Committee often proposes solutions for work-life balance that have an impact on human rights grounds such as family status; the Youth Network may be a venue to discuss barriers related to age; and the Employment Equity Committee works to reduce barriers to employment for the four designated groups under the EEA.
Or the employer can centralize discussion of and consultation on human rights matters and:
- Develop a committee composed of members of the designated groups, employees (union or employee association representatives) and management that will be able to provide a wide lens with which to examine the following:
- human rights policies;
- training requirements;
- allegations of discrimination.
- This committee can also identify barriers for designated groups and make recommendations to the employer to address specific situations.
- The committee should have a clear mandate and employees, managers and other stakeholders should be informed of its existence and purpose.
- As well, the employer can conduct broad consultation across the organization and conduct focus groups on the topics of accommodation, employment equity, discrimination and harassment.
Having clear terms of reference: Terms of reference are important to the success of a committee, whether or not it is specifically dedicated to human rights questions. Terms of reference must be accepted and understood by all members. They should be written in a clear style to suit the individual needs of the organization.
Arriving at consensus: All committee members need to contribute to, and agree on the final document. The terms of reference most often define:
- how the committee should run;
- the role of the committee;
- the goals and objectives of the committee; and
- how issues can be raised for consideration by the committee.
Terms of reference ensure that regular meetings are held, and can prevent disputes over the aims, composition and operation of the committee.
A well-developed document should outline the agreed procedure for dealing with the work of the committee.
The following questions, developed for Health and Safety Committees under the Canada Labour Code, Part II, can be used to set up an effective Human Rights Committee.
(HERE’S THE LINK TO ACCESS ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS DIRECTLY)
- Are the purpose and authority of the committee clearly defined?
- To whom does the committee report? How often are such reports made?
- Does the committee meet regularly? When and where are meetings held?
- Is full attendance regularly achieved?
- Do meetings start and stop on schedule? Are meetings frequently interrupted?
- Is an agenda prepared for each meeting and distributed to all members before each meeting?
- What is the procedure for inclusion of new items of business on the agenda?
- Is meeting time used in a productive manner?
- How are decisions reached at meetings?
- Are all items of unfinished or new business concluded by specific recommendations for action?
- Are comprehensive minutes of meetings kept? For what period of time are minutes kept on file?
- Are the minutes available to management and committee members, and posted promptly for all workers to read?
Examples of Human Rights Committees:
The B.C. Government and Service Union Equity and Human Rights Committee
The mandate of the Equity and Human Rights Committee is to work to eliminate all forms of discrimination in the workplace, in the union, and throughout society.
The committee represents the interests of equity-seeking groups, including Aboriginal and Métis peoples, persons with disabilities, people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, women, men and allies.
The committee has diverse representation. The committee deals with issues ranging from homophobia in the workplace and racism, to reasonable accommodation education. Its work includes challenging attitudes and practices. The committee has considered employment equity strategies and breaking down systemic barriers and has examined the union's own policies and structures to increase access by members at all levels.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) District 17 Human Rights Committee
This Committee works to promote human rights in the workplace by increasing awareness and encouraging positive change on human rights concerns and OSSTF policies relating to human rights.
Useful links and tools
Frequently Asked Questions about Employment Equity - Canadian Human Rights Commission
Joint Health & Safety Committee - Structure - Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Human Rights Compliance Assessment - Danish Institute for Human Rights
Equity and Human Rights Committee - Manitoba Government and General Employees
Equity and Human Rights Committee - BC Government and Service Employee's Union
Canada Labour Code, Part II
Human Rights Compliance Assessment (HRCA) Quick Check, The Danish Institute for Human Rights: Human Rights and Business Project 2006, pp. 10-35.
Human Rights Committees, 3rd Edition, by Steve Baker and Amy Tabor
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