Only 6% of survey respondents agreed that the Employment Equity Act has made a big difference in people with an intellectual disability getting and keeping good jobs.

The Employment Equity Act is a law that aims to make jobs opportunities and workplaces fairer. It focuses on people with disabilities, women, indigenous people, and members of visible minorities.

This law has existed since the 1980s. It was last updated in 1995. It applies to all federally regulated workplaces. This includes government offices, banks, and airlines. This law has been around a long time, but it hasn’t had much positive impact for people with an intellectual disability.

In 2012 Statistics Canada reported that only 22.3% of working-age adults with a developmental disability were employed.

For 6 years, the number and proportion of people with disabilities working in the federal public service went down. This decline only stopped in 2019-2020.

In 2022 the Government of Canada decided to review the Employment Equity Act. They asked Inclusion Canada to consult with people with an intellectual disability and their families. Their goal was to learn how to make this law better.

In April 2022, we held 7 Canada-wide focus groups. We talked with:

  • self-advocates
  • family members
  • employment agency staff
  • community organizations, and
  • partners from Indigenous and Black youth employment organizations

We also spoke to employers in one-on-one interviews.

We talked about what prevents people with an intellectual disability from equal employment. We explored ways the Government of Canada can help people with an intellectual disability find and keep good jobs. We talked about the support employers need. And we shared ideas about how to measure if the law is making a positive difference.

We used this information to build a survey. We wanted to check that our community agreed with what we had learned. More than 70 people filled out the survey. Most of them were self-advocates or family members of people with an intellectual disability.

Finally, we put together our top 6 recommendations. We presented them to the Task Force – a group of people responsible for reviewing the Employment Equity Act.

Here’s what we told them:

  • Recommendation #1 – Create a clear definition of inclusive employment in federal legislation. Make sure that money transferred from the federal government to the provinces and territories is used for activities that fit this definition. Be clear that ‘accommodations’ include human support, communication accommodations, and sensory accommodations. These are often the kinds of support that people with an intellectual disability need.
  • Recommendation #2 – Support career development and promote positive expectations. Help self-advocates, families, and educators to explore work interests starting in early childhood. Communicate clearly that inclusive employment is positive and possible.
  • Recommendation #3 – Invest in early predictors of employment success. Youth with an intellectual disability who have a paying job during high school are most likely to have a paying job after leaving school. Post-secondary education can lead to people with an intellectual disability being twice as likely to be employed. We suggested several ways the Government of Canada can invest in inclusive education and improve access to post-secondary education.
  • Recommendation #4 – Shift funding to focus on helping people keep jobs and grow in their careers. Many employment agencies receive funding based on the number of ‘new jobs’ they achieve. There’s very little support to help people keep jobs and grow in their careers. Stop providing wage subsidies. Instead, use this money to help employment agencies focus on job retention, career advancement and expand their reach.
  • Recommendation #5 – Collect better data and use it to make funding decisions. We suggested 5 categories for data collection. Make sure information can be divided by disability type and complexity of support needs. Look at intersectionality – how people’s different identities impact their employment experience.
  • Recommendation #6 – Become an ‘Employer Champion’. Lead by example. Hire more people with an intellectual disability in the federal civil service. Communicate the value and success of inclusive employment.

Some of our recommendations include changes to the Employment Equity Act. But many of them go farther than just changing the law. Laws alone are not enough. We need good quality programs, supportive employers, and appropriate funding to help people with an intellectual disability get and keep good jobs.