What is employment equity?

Under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, employers are required to uphold workers’ human rights and maintain a work environment that is free from discrimination. Employment equity goes beyond creating a discrimination-free work environment. It’s about employers taking action to remove and prevent barriers at work for workers who belong to groups that have often been treated unfairly, for example, because of their race, age, gender or disability.

Sometimes to have fair and inclusive workplaces, employers need to look at treating their workers differently rather than the same. Employment equity addresses inequities in the workplace so we can build a more inclusive society respectful of human rights.

Why we created this resource

More than three decades after the term “employment equity” was coined, the effects of systemic discrimination continue to be seen across the labour market. Gaps in representation and pay for marginalized groups remain stubbornly high, and year after year employment is the most litigated area of discrimination at the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Many employers want to be part of the solution. They know that promoting equity makes good business sense and that it’s the right thing to do, but they may not have the time or expertise to know where to start. Our office continues to hear strong interest and desire from organizations across sectors asking for help to make their workplaces more equitable and inclusive.

That’s why we developed this toolkit of resources to support employers wanting to learn how to improve equity within their businesses and organizations. It draws on a combination of secondary research, focus groups and feedback sessions with employers and workers, and a province-wide poll exploring experiences and perspectives on equity in the workplace. The toolkit is an important part of our work to promote equity in B.C.

Additionally, BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner is working alongside you to advance equity in our own organization. Moving towards greater workplace equity is an ongoing process that all of us have a responsibility to pursue.

You can use the recommendations in this toolkit to develop an integrated employment equity plan for your business or organization. The components of your plan will depend on where you are in your equity journey.

For those new to employment equity, the toolkit begins with introductory materials covering core concepts and summarizing some of what we know and don’t know about employment equity in B.C. along with its business benefits.

The rest of the toolkit covers five topic areas within employment equity: accommodations, compensation, data collection, complaint resolution and hiring and promotion. Each topic is covered in a main infosheet containing recommendations for employers. These are sometimes supplemented with additional guidance and tools that go deeper into one or more aspects of the topic.

If any of the concepts across our infosheets are new to you, we recommend using our online Glossary to explore information about the phrases and language being used.

Ingredients for success

How you choose to embark on the journey of improving equity in your organization will help determine the success of your efforts. The following suggestions may be helpful as you plan your journey. 

  • Commit to change
    • Set (or renew) your intention to improve equity in your workplace and communicate your commitments to your staff
    • Leaders at all levels of your organization should champion and model a commitment to advancing equity by demonstrating an openness to new ideas and feedback, sharing reflections on equity and how their perspectives have changed over time, making equity a priority for their teams, and committing resources to achieving clear goals.
    • Anticipate some resistance to change and have a plan to address it. Visit the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion for more on how to manage fear and resistance.
    • Understand your current state
    • Identify any policies, processes and plans you currently have related to anti-discrimination and equity in the workplace and evaluate their effectiveness
  • Collaborate with your employees
    • Invite staff participation from the beginning, especially from marginalized groups, to identify challenges and opportunities for growth within your organization
    • Consider the perspectives of employees across all levels of your organization, including frontline workers
    • Codevelop your employment equity plan and policies with your staff
    • Ensure staff are able to collaborate during paid time
  • Build effective structures and processes
    • Establish structures responsible for advancing equity and ensure they have the power and authority to make key decisions
    • This might look like diversity committees, taskforces or staff positions, or it could be as simple as setting up regular conversations about employment equity with all staff
    • Regularly assess the state of equity in your organization and measure progress toward your goals
  • Commit to ongoing education
    • Remember that building our collective knowledge of employment equity is a continual process
    • Provide your workers with access to practical and conceptual educational resources based on the needs of your organization
    • Good places to start include Resilience BC and the What works toolkit

A note on knowing your audience

If you are sharing this information with others, it can be helpful to consider who your audience is and what motivates them. Research shows that people are most motivated to work towards and invest in employment equity when they are provided with information that draws their attention to the benefits most aligned with their organization’s vision and mission. We hope the information we provide in this toolkit supports you in having these important conversations.


According to a poll we conducted in 2022, about half (47%) of people who experienced or know someone who experienced discrimination in B.C. in the previous year said it happened at work.


A group of colleagues crowd around to chat. One colleague has impaired vision and a guide dog. Another colleague is petting the dog.


How to develop or improve your accommodations policy and accommodation plans

Woman works from home on a laptop while carrying and kissing her baby. The woman has medium tone skin, tied-back wavy black hair, and is wearing a white sweater with black stripes. The baby has medium tone skin, is bald, and wearing a fluffy hooded onesie.


How to work towards equitable compensation

Two men wearing blue collar jumpsuits are sitting on a ledge smiling at the camera. The man on the left has medium skin tone, is more stout, and is wearing a blue toque. The man on the right has light-medium skin tone, dark facial hair, and is wearing a red cap.

Data collection

How to collect disaggregated demographic data and use it to promote greater equity

Two young, light-skinned women in what appears to be a café are pictured from the waist up looking into the camera with solemn expressions. They are wearing aprons and appear to be employees of the café. The woman on the right has shoulder-length curly hair and she is looking into the camera with a slight sideways glance. The woman on the left has her arms crossed and she is wearing large hoop earrings and a toque over no hair.

Anti-discrimination and complaint resolution

How to develop or improve your anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedure

A black and white image where a woman is sitting across the table from a man in a minimalist office setting. The woman appears to be interviewing the man. The woman has medium-toned skin, is holding a pen and clipboard, and is looking inquisitively at the man across from her. The man is Black and only his back and the side of his face are visible. There is a coffee on the table in front of him which he is drinking.

Hiring and promotion

How to build an equitable hiring and promotion plan as well as strategies for implementing fair and inclusive hiring and promotion practices

The complete toolkit

Need the whole thing? Get all components of this toolkit in one package.
Note: one more infosheet coming later!

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Get in touch with us at policy@bchumanrights.ca with any questions or comments, or answer the quick form below!

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