Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions to help you gain a better understanding of the Employment Equity Program.

The Federal Contractors Program & Employment Equity at UAlberta

Does the University of Alberta have an employment equity plan? 

Opening Doors: A Plan for Employment Equity at the University of Alberta is the University's current plan. It was passed by General Faculties Council in March 1993 and was approved by the Board of Governors in January 1994. The plan was developed to guide implementation of employment equity on campus and as a requirement of the Federal Contractors Program (FCP), a workplace equity program of the federal government. Opening Doors has been reviewed and a new employment equity plan is currently under development.

Opening Doors encourages the University of Alberta to take pro-active measures to attract a broad and diverse group of qualified candidates and to provide new and current employees with a respectful working environment. Opening Doors recommends that each academic screening or selection committee have at least one member who has completed the University's training on employment equity and human rights in relation to recruitment and selection of academic staff.

Why is the University of Alberta collecting equity data?

The University collects equity data for a couple of reasons.  The data allows us to have a greater understanding the composition of our workforce so that we can identify patterns and trends in employee recruitment and retention.  By analyzing equity data, we are able to assess the University's progress on achieving a diverse and equitable workforce.  The collection of employment equity data is also a requirement of the Federal Contractors’ Program (FCP) and was the original impetus for the development of the University's employment equity plan and the implementation of the Employment Equity Census Questionnaire.  

What is the Federal Contractor's Program (FCP)?

The FCP is a federal government employment equity initiative to track the University’s progress in achieving and maintaining a workforce comprised of the four groups federally designated as being disadvantaged in employment (women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal people).

The FCP ensures that provincially regulated organizations that do business with the Government of Canada achieve and maintain a workforce that is representative of the Canadian workforce population. Under the terms of the FCP, companies or institutions with 100+ employees, seeking contracts for goods and services from the federal government, valued at $1M or more, are required to be committed to employment equity and to have a plan in place that contains specific initiatives through which employment equity will be accomplished.  

Designated Groups

Why aren’t Aboriginal peoples considered members of visible minorities?

Due to the historical significance of Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples, some of the challenges facing this population are different from those of who are members of visible minorities. In addition, not all Aboriginal people are visually identifiable. For these reasons, Aboriginal peoples form a distinct group. An individual should not self-identify as both Aboriginal and visible minority unless the person is of mixed ancestry. 

The definition of Aboriginal included on the University of Alberta Employment Equity Census Questionnaire is derived from the Canada Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors’ Program, and is limited to North American Aboriginal people. Aboriginal peoples who do not fit within the federal definition of Aboriginal (such as those from other geographical areas such as New Zealand or South America) may wish to self-identify as being members of a visible minority. 

Why aren’t we collecting data on sexual orientation or gender identity?

The Federal Contractors’ Program only requires signatories to collect data on the four groups identified as being disadvantaged in employment (women, Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities, and persons with disabilities). While data on other groups protected by legislation and UAlberta policies might be useful to understand the climate at UAlberta, at this time, it is not included in the census questionnaire. The inclusion of this type of question is under consideration.

Why are women considered a group disadvantaged in employment, when there are so many women in the workforce?

Women are well represented in the workforce overall, but there are specific occupations and levels in which it is still a struggle to gain equal representation. Typically, there is a very high percentage of women employed in some areas of health care such as nursing and in secretarial and retail occupations. At the same time, women are frequently under-represented in senior management and in traditionally male-dominated fields such as various trades and academic disciplines.  The Employment Equity Program examines the reasons for these trends here at UAlberta and then proposes ways to address the inequities

University of Alberta commitment to hiring on the basis of merit

Does employment equity contradict the notion of hiring on merit?  How does counting people provide insight into employment equity at the University of Alberta?

UAlberta hires and promotes on the basis of merit. The intention of the University of Alberta’s Employment Equity Plan is to remove barriers that prevent qualified candidates from the designated groups from being considered on a fair and equitable basis for positions. By conducting workforce analyses, hidden obstacles to full participation at UAlberta can be identified.  While employment equity encourages selection committees to examine their biases and hire the best candidate, hiring is only one aspect of equity in employment.  UAlberta is also concerned with the workplace environment that will retain a diverse workforce.  By counting or analyzing the representation of employees, employment trends such as a high turnover rate or a lower promotion rate for members of designated groups will be revealed. The results of these analyses will assist with planning and providing support to improve the climate on campus for all employees.

All UAlberta job postings must contain the following equity statement:

“The University of Alberta hires on the basis of merit. We are committed to the principle of equity in employment. We welcome diversity and encourage applications from all qualified women and men, including persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities, and Aboriginal persons.”

Excerpt is taken from the University of Alberta’s Recruitment Policy. The official document is available at U of A Policies and Procedures online (UAPPOL).

The Employment Equity Census Questionnaire

Why have I received an Employment Equity Census questionnaire?

The University of Alberta collects data on its employees to understand the composition of its workforce, and report that data to the Federal Government. All part-time and full-time continuing employees paid from operating accounts are asked to complete an Employment Equity Census Questionnaire. The data collected is essential for developing effective employment equity initiatives.

Typically, the questionnaires are sent soon after a new employee’s continuing appointment commences.  However, if an employee first comes to campus in a non-continuing position they would not have been sent one. 

To help ensure the accuracy of equity data, a confidential manual verification is conducted on an annual basis to identify current employees who should receive a questionnaire. Following this verification process, these employees are sent an Employment Equity Census questionnaire and are encouraged to participate in the survey.

Do I have to complete and return the questionnaire?

Completing the survey is voluntary; however one of the criteria of the federal program is that the census questionnaire must have a minimum return rate of 80%.  A low return rate may suggest to the FCP that UAlberta is not committed to the principles of equity in employment and that artificial barriers to employment are not being identified and corrected. If UAlberta is found to be non-compliant with the FCP, the University may not be permitted to continue bidding on and being awarded federal goods and services contracts. 

Why should I complete the questionnaire?

The higher the response rate, the more accurate the information on the composition of the workforce. The questionnaires are sent to employees to allow them to self-identify, members of the designated groups are not targeted specifically. In order to have an accurate picture of the representation of women, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities employed at UAlberta, it is essential to know how many employees are not members of these groups to determine if the University’s workforce is becoming more diverse in these areas. It is important to know the composition of all UAlberta employees when identifying services or programs that will benefit all members of the campus community.

While the University strongly encourages all newly hired employees paid from operating accounts to complete the survey, you may choose not to answer some of the questions. If this is the case, please select the "I do not wish to complete this survey" option so that you can be included in our response rate. The implication of a low response rate is that the University may be found to be non-compliant by the Federal Contractor's Program (FCP). The FCP requires an 80% response rate, so all responses are valuable.

Can I change my responses?

Yes, employees who wish to change their responses under one of the designated groups are asked to send an indicating their Employee ID and the requested change EmploymentEquity@ualberta.ca.

Confidentiality

Why can’t my responses be anonymous?

The questionnaire is confidential but not anonymous. To be able to develop aggregate statistics based on occupational codes, the University must be able to link your equity data to the occupational code your position is classified under. In addition, the FCP may ask the University to report on aggregate promotions, training, terminations, etc. To do so, the University must be able to track the changes. In all reports provided to the FCP and any internal University report, only aggregate data is used. Equity data on individuals is not reported to ensure confidentiality.

The equity data supplied on the Employment Equity Census Questionnaire is also used to determine the University’s success in recruiting and maintaining a workforce that is representative of the broader community. The analysis includes studying promotion and termination rates to identify policies and practices that may prevent employees from participating to their full ability. 

In order for the analyses to be meaningful, the equity data provided on the questionnaires must be considered in relation to specific positions held at the University; consequently, anonymity is not possible.  However, stringent controls are in place to ensure confidentiality of your responses. Equity data does not become part of regular personnel records and access to the equity data is highly restricted.  No individual employee has been, or will be, identified in statistical summaries. 

Sometimes, completed questionnaires are returned with the employee identification number removed.  In these instances, the equity data provided on the form cannot be used as it is not possible to use it to track the University’s progress. In addition, without the employee ID, there is no way to verify who has returned the form and a number of reminders to submit the questionnaire will subsequently be sent.  If employees are not comfortable self-identifying, they are asked to select the “I do not wish to complete this survey” option and return the questionnaire rather than removing their employee ID. 

Will my personal information be protected?

The personal information requested on the questionnaire is collected and protected under the authority of Section 33 (c) of the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It will only be used for the purposes of monitoring the implementation of the University's Employment Equity program.

Will my responses be part of my personnel record?

No, your responses will not form part of your employee record. The questionnaire is destroyed once the data is recorded.