Recent legislative changes acknowledge society’s growing understanding of gender diversity in all places, including the workplace. More provinces and territories may follow in adapting their employment legislation to reflect current norms.
Employers can and should take proactive steps to create inclusive workplaces by acknowledging and promoting gender diversity and making sure to address employees by their preferred pronouns. Failing to do so could lead to potential human rights claims.
In various parts of the country, employment-related legislation has recently been amended to include gender-inclusive language. As society develops an understanding of gender diversity, our legislation is starting to keep up with the times.
For example, Quebec’s Bill 2, An Act respecting family law reform with regard to filiation and amending the Civil Code in relation to personality rights and civil status (“Bill 2”) received Assent on June 8, 2022, and amends various acts. With respect to employment, the Bill amends the Act respecting labour standards, by replacing terms with gender-neutral language. For example, the Bill replaces the terms:
- “he”, “him” and “she” by “the employee”
- “his” by “the”, “the employee’s” or “their”, depending on the context
- “her” by “the” or “the employee’s”, depending on the context
- “himself” or “herself” by “themself”
In the parental leave section of the Act, the Bill takes out many references to “maternity leave” and “paternity leave” and replaces them with “the leave provided for in section 81.2 or 81.4”. It also adds “or the pregnant person” after the word “mother”.
Not only do the changes bring gender inclusivity, but they also reflect the reality that what constitutes a “family” or “mother” has evolved and may mean different things to different people.
On June 29, 2022, Newfoundland and Labrador filed Regulation 38/22 (the “Regulation”), which amends the Labour Standards Regulations by removing references to gender. For example, references to “him or her” are replaced with “the employee“ or “the person”.
The Regulation also changes terms in the definition of “family member”. For example, the terms “aunt or uncle” have been replaced with “a sibling of a parent of the employee”.
New Brunswick’s Bill 111 and Bill 112 received royal assent on June 10, 2022. Both Bills remove references to gender in the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act and replace them with gender-neutral language.
Employers can be proactive in promoting gender inclusivity in the workplace through the following actions, to name a few:
- Using employees’ preferred pronouns
- Using gender-inclusive language in all communications
- Implementing workplace policies on gender inclusivity
- Updating all policies and workplace documents to make them gender-inclusive
Given that retention of employees is a live issue, implementing these simple things can go a long way.
If you would like some help with diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace, get in touch for a consultation.