Federal Contractors Program
The Federal Contractors Program (FCP) ensures that contractors who do business with the Government of Canada achieve and maintain a workforce that is representative of the Canadian workforce. The Program applies to non-federally regulated contractors that:
- have a combined workforce in Canada of 100 or more permanent full-time, permanent part-time and/or temporary employees having worked 12 weeks or more; and
- received an initial federal government goods and services contract, a standing offer, or a supply arrangement valued at $1 million or more (including applicable taxes).
The Federal Contractors Program was established in 1986 to further the goal of achieving workplace equity for designated groups experiencing discrimination in the Canadian labour market. These groups are:
- Aboriginal peoples;
- persons with disabilities; and
- members of visible minorities.
Effective June 27, 2013 a redesigned FCP will be in effect which includes:
- an increase in the contract threshold from $200,000 to $1 million to support the Government's commitment to reduce regulatory red tape burden for small- to medium-sized employers;
- assessment that focus on achievement of results enabling contractors to determine initiatives best suited to their organization in order to achieve employment equity objectives.
Agreement to Implement Employment Equity
Contractors who bid on an initial goods and services contract, a standing offer, or a supply arrangement estimated at $1 million or more (including applicable taxes) with the Government of Canada must first certify their commitment to implement employment equity by signing the Agreement to Implement Employment Equity (LAB1168) prior to contract award.
Once the goods and services contract, the standing offer, or the supply arrangement is awarded to the contractor, the contractor is assigned a unique Agreement to Implement Employment Equity number and is informed by Labour Program that they are now subject to the FCP. Contractors are then required to implement employment equity and, if representation gaps exist, to make all reasonable efforts most appropriate within the context of their specific organizational environment and structural needs to close any identified gaps. This obligation is on-going and not only subject to the period of the contract, including future contracts.
Cancellation of Agreement without Penalty
An organization's Agreement to Implement Employment Equity may be cancelled without penalty if the organization sends a request to the Labour Program to withdraw because:
- the number of employees has decreased to fewer than 100 and is unlikely to increase to 100 or more in the near future; or
- the contractor has ceased to operate due to bankruptcy or liquidation, or has terminated its operations.
By signing an Agreement to Implement Employment Equity, contractors agree to implement and maintain employment equity within their workplace. This Agreement is in force from the moment of receipt of an initial federal government goods and services contract, a standing offer, or a supply arrangement valued at $1 million or more (including applicable taxes). The contractor must fulfill the following Requirements (see OPD 700-14 - Appendix A):
1. Collect Workforce Information
The contractor must survey its workforce to determine the representation of the four designated groups in each occupational group. To gather this information, the employer must develop, distribute, and collect a self-identification questionnaire according to the standards described in Appendix A of the Operational Program Directive (see Section 1, Appendix A - OPD 700-14). The self-identification questionnaire must be given to all employees who have worked 12 weeks or more (permanent full-time, permanent part-time and temporary employees); be easy to acquire; and be available in other formats, if requested. Information from the questionnaire must stay confidential and be kept separate from personnel files.
The Self-Identification Questionnaire Must Include:
- A definition for each employment equity designated group that is consistent with the definitions included in the Appendix A of the Operational Program Directive (see Section 1, Appendix A - OPD 700-14).
- Wording that clearly demonstrates:
- employees can be members of more than one designated group;
- filling out the survey is voluntary;
- the information gathered is confidential and will only be shared with internal human resources employees responsible for employment equity obligations;
- the responses given on the self-identification questionnaire may be changed at any time; and
- a way to identify the employee who returns the self-identification questionnaire.
Note: Designated group membership for all groups except women is to be drawn from the self-identification questionnaire. The contractor may extract information on gender from personnel files.
A Workforce Survey is Required When:
- The contractor has never surveyed its workforce to determine its representation level.
- The contractor did not keep its database up-to-date. For example, new employees were not given a self-identification questionnaire; employees who updated their self-identification information were not taken into account; or changes were not made to survey results to take into account those who no longer work there.
The contractor must make all reasonable efforts to ensure that at least 80 percent of its employees complete and return the questionnaire and that the results are an accurate representation of the workforce. If a response rate of 80 percent or more is not attained a follow-up with non-respondents is needed.
The contractor must code each employee's occupation using the National Occupational Classification (NOC) and the Employment Equity Occupational Group (EEOG) (see Section 2, Appendix A - OPD 700-14). This enables the contractor to compare internal representation data to external availability estimates.
Workforce Information Database
The contractor should also keep a correct and up-to-date database of workforce information based on information gathered from the self-identification questionnaires. This data must be access-restricted, be kept confidential and include the following records for each employee:
- hire date;
- designated group membership, if any;
- occupational group classification;
- promotion date(s), if any; and
- termination date, if applicable.
The contractor is responsible for keeping the workforce survey results up-to-date. This could be done by:
- providing self-identification questionnaires to employees at the start of their employment, to employees who wish to change previously submitted information, and/or to employees who ask for a questionnaire;
- making updates to the survey results to take into account the changes to the questionnaires mentioned above;
- making changes to the survey results to take into account employees who are no longer employed or who have been promoted; and
- adopting a process to periodically remind employees that information can be changed.
2. Complete a Workforce Analysis
The contractor must complete a workforce analysis (see Section 2, Appendix A - OPD 700-14) at least once every three years that compares its internal workforce representation with external availability estimates to see if there are gaps in the representation of the designated groups. Gaps in representation happen when the internal representation is less than the external availability in a particular occupational group and designated group. Availability estimates are located within the Data Highlights of the 2011 Employment Equity Data Report.
3. Establish Short-Term and Long-Term Numerical Goals
The contractor must establish reasonable short-term and long-term numerical goals for the hiring and promotion of designated group members (see Section 3, Appendix A - OPD 700-14), which will increase the representation of designated group members in the workforce and close any gaps in representation.
Short-Term Numerical Goals
Short-term numerical goals cover a period of one to three years. When establishing these goals, the contractor should consider:
- the degree of under-representation;
- the availability of qualified designated group members within the employer's workforce and in the Canadian workforce;
- the anticipated growth or reduction of the employer's workforce in the period covered by the goals; and
- the anticipated turnover of employees during the period covered by the goals.
Long-term goals must be established to close gaps in the representation of designated group members that are not expected to be closed in the short term. These goals are to be achieved in a period of three years or more. When establishing long-term goals, the contractor should consider the same factors as those considered when establishing short-term numerical goals, as well as the effects of those short-term goals.
4. Make Reasonable Progress and Reasonable Efforts
The contractor must make all reasonable efforts to implement employment equity so that reasonable progress is made towards having full representation of the four designated groups within its workforce.
Evidence that reasonable progress is being made includes:
- meeting the hiring and promotion goals by at least 80 percent or more, and/or by reaching overall goals (cumulative) by at least 80 percent; and
- moving forward in closing gaps in representation within the timeframe.
Evidence that reasonable efforts are being made could include:
- ongoing senior-level support for employment equity and its implementation;
- accountability mechanisms were established to ensure that the short-term goals would be met;
- adequate resources (financial and human) were devoted to ensure that the short-term goals would be met;
- a strategy was put in place to ensure a barrier-free workplace;
- initiatives were undertaken to increase representation where gaps in representation were found; and
- the organization has done all that might reasonably be expected to effectively implement employment equity, taking into account resources and constraints.
Note: "Reasonable efforts" does not mean the contractor must take action that would cause undue hardship, hire or promote unqualified persons, or create new positions.
The contractor must keep records (see Section 4.4, Appendix A - OPD 700-14) relating to their employment equity obligations for a period of at least three years after the date to which the records relate. Each requirement must have records to prove it was completed.
Compliance assessments, conducted on a risk-based approach, assess the contractor's employment equity to ensure that it fulfills the terms of the Agreement to Implement Employment Equity by meeting the Requirements of the FCP (see Appendix A - OPD 700-14 ). A compliance assessment ends with a finding of either compliance or non-compliance (see Section 7.2 - OPD 700-14).
The Labour Program's officers conduct compliance assessments. A First Year Compliance Assessment is conducted after a contractor has been subject to the FCP for one year. Third Year Compliance Assessments may be conducted after each finding of compliance with the requirements.
During a First Year Compliance Assessment (see Section 7 - OPD 700-14), the officer will assess the:
- self-identification questionnaire used to collect workforce information;
- survey's response and return rates;
- workforce analysis; and
- short-term and long-term goals.
During a Third Year Compliance Assessment, should a contractor be selected for review (see Section 7 - OPD 700-14),the officer will assess:
- whether or not reasonable progress was made towards creating a workplace that is equitable and representative of the four designated groups (see Section 1, Appendix A - OPD 700-14); and
- whether or not reasonable efforts were made to implement and maintain employment equity.
Compliance and Non-Compliance with the Federal Contractors Program
A finding of compliance (see Section 4, Appendix A - OPD 700-14)confirms that the contractor has implemented employment equity within its workplace that fulfills the Requirements and will lead to an equitable workplace that is representative of the four designated groups. It also confirms that the contractor's name remains on the List of Certified Contractors for the FCP.
A finding of non-compliance (see Section 4, Appendix A - OPD 700-14) is made when a contractor does not demonstrate that it is prepared to fulfill its employment equity obligations. Before a finding of non-compliance is made, the contractor is informed and given both the opportunity and the information necessary to take action to achieve compliance or to appeal the decision of non-compliance.
If the results of a compliance assessment are unfavorable, the contractor will be advised in writing of the factors contributing to the decision and be notified of its right to appeal to the Minister of Labour within 30 days of receiving the warning of non-compliance. If the appeal is accepted, the Minister of Labour will appoint an independent assessor to meet with the organization, study the findings of the original compliance assessment, and advise the Minister of Labour. If the results of the independent review support the contractor's position, a new compliance assessment will be conducted. If the results of the independent review indicate a failure to comply, sanctions will be applied.
Once a finding of non-compliance has been determined, the contractor's name is placed on the FCP Limited Eligibility to Bid List and the contractor loses the right to bid on federal government goods and services contracts, standing offers, or supply arrangements of any value. Non-compliance with the FCP may also result in the termination of the contract.
To be reinstated to the Program (see Appendix D, Section 5.4 of the Contracting policy), a contractor must:
- implement employment equity in its workplace;
- inform the Federal Contractors Program of the implementation; and
- be found in compliance through a compliance assessment (see Section 7, OPD 700-14).
Withdrawing from the Federal Contractors Program
If a contractor withdraws from the Federal Contractors Program, it will no longer be able to bid on federal government goods and services contracts, standing offers, or supply arrangements of any value.
To withdraw, the organization must send a written request to withdraw to the Labour Program. After receiving the request, the Labour Program will send a confirmation letter to the organization and the organization's name will be added to the FCP Limited Eligibility to Bid List. Furthermore, the organization's Agreement to Implement Employment Equity number will be cancelled, and all federal departments will be advised that the contractor is no longer eligible to bid or receive federal government goods and services contracts, standing offers, or supply arrangements of any value. Withdrawing from the FCP may also result in the termination of the contract.
Treasury Board Directives
In 2013, changes were made to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Contracting Policy to reflect changes of the redesigned Federal Contractors Program. The Contracting Policy Changes Notice 2013-3 - Federal Contractors Program for Employment Equity was also published.
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