When you think of human rights, what comes to mind? Is it equality and basic rights for all? Or is it an intrusion into your business operations? Maybe you consider human rights a challenging opportunity, or just another way for employees to take advantage of employers in court. The Canadian Human Rights Commission wants employers to understand that human rights law isn’t just about punishing employers; it’s about promoting workplace equality, diversity and compromise, as well as business productivity, efficiency and growth.
Wait a minute: business efficiency and growth? Did you know about this? How does that work?
The commission has published a website for a new tool called the Human Rights Maturity Model. (I know it’s not a very compelling name, but stick with me for a minute.) This is what it says about human rights and business:
In the workplace, integrating human rights into all aspects of an organization is good for people and good for business. It can contribute to a positive work environment, strong motivation and increased productivity. It can enhance competitiveness, and recruitment and retention of the best employees. Conversely, undercurrents or actions of prejudice and discrimination can impact team cohesion, cost time and money, and cause damage to an organization’s business and reputation.
The commission goes on to say that most Canadian organizations already understand the business case for integrating human rights into their workplaces, but they lack the tools or knowledge to effectively do so. I’m sure the second part of that claim is true, but I don’t know about the first bit.
We’ve discussed human rights cases quite a lot here on First Reference Talks, whether it’s a woman fired on her first day at work for disclosing that she was pregnant, environmental sensitivities, a woman awarded $25,000 for suffering racism at work or dealing with employees with disabilities. These cases seem to make it clear that many business-owners truly don’t understand the case for human rights at work, or if they do, they choose to ignore it.
Well, for those businesses that flout the law—knowingly or not—the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (and provincial tribunals across the country) is there to defend victims of discrimination and harassment and punish offenders. That’s why those forums exist. For those organizations “mature” enough to understand the business case, but lacking the tools, the commission’s new maturity model (get it?) offers a framework to “help employers create a self-sustaining human rights culture in the workplace”, along with a number of tools and other resources.
What’s your take on human rights in the workplace? (I know that’s a big question!) Has your company faced a complaint of discrimination before a human rights tribunal? Have you implemented programs or policies to encourage equality and diversity?
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor