It’s becoming less common for job listings to specify Canadian experience, but the attitude is still pervasive in Canadian companies, but is it discriminatory?
“A strict requirement for “Canadian experience” is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances,” a new report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) said. “The onus will be on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement.”
The practice is often the result of unconscious biases according to the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council learning initiatives manager Rose DeVeyra.
“Often employers don’t realize it is a form of discrimination,” DeVeyra told HRM. “It’s usually an unconscious bias towards someone with Canadian experience. The best way to address it is to surface the bias.”
While business used to be regionally focused, these days a diverse team can be an advantage in dealing with a diverse supplier and customer base.
“The risk as an employer is that you’re screening out people who could possibly be better candidates for the job,” DeVeyra said.
An easy change to make in your process is to have an employee who won’t be directly involved in making a hiring decision mask names and other details on resumes. By covering all names, locations and dates you allow those doing the hiring to focus on skills and experience.
“When the person screening looks for very specific examples of that competency, then the focus is on what the person has to offer rather than who the person is,” DeVeyra said.
There are also free websites for checking the validity of foreign educational institutions, which can help confirm credentials.
Labour and employment lawyer Lia Chiarotto, from Heenan Blaikie, said that while the Commission’s policy is not law, the Commission’s policy was consistent with Canadian case law.
According to Chiarotto, employers should keep in mind the following to avoid violating human rights legislation:
- Do not require Canadian job experience in a job posting or ad, or ask for qualifications that could only be obtained by working in Canada.
- Be clear about the specific qualifications and experience you are seeking instead of using catch-all terms like “Canadian experience”.
- Only ask about job-related qualifications (e.g., communication skills, ability to manage projects, familiarity with Canadian industry standards, etc.).
- Assess candidates on an individual basis and consider all relevant work experience regardless of where it was obtained.
- Do not make assumptions about the quality of work experience gained outside of Canada. In particular, do not discount or devalue foreign work experience. Find out about the candidate’s job-related skills and qualifications.
- Use objective and standardized criteria when choosing candidates to minimize the chances that discrimination will play a role in selection.
- Be prepared to show how you chose the successful applicant.