Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – April 2017

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

April 2017   



In This Issue…

  1. The Golden Years: The Aging Workforce and Human Rights Matters
  2. How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation
  3. Flashback Feature:
    Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value
  Celebrating 175 years at Queen's University  

The Golden Years: The Aging Workforce and Human Rights Matters
Deborah Hudson, Lawyer, Turnpenney Milne LLP, 2017

As the Canadian population ages, so does our workforce. Mandatory retirement programs have generally been outlawed (with few exemptions), and many Canadians now choose to work into their 60s and 70s for various reasons including: fulfillment, financial gains, longer life spans, lack of savings and failed pension plans.

Employers can significantly benefit by retaining and hiring older employees who may offer considerable knowledge, experience and insight, along with dedication and work ethic. All of these benefits are accompanied by a unique set of human rights considerations related to our aging workforce, including age discrimination and age related disability. With respect to age discrimination, employees may experience ageism within an ongoing employment relationship, or when trying to secure a new job later in life. Older employees may feel like they are being forced to retire or may be passed up for deserved promotions on the unverified assumptions they will not be working too much longer. Older employees may also be targeted for termination, when they had intended to work for several years more. Persons seeking new jobs later in life may experience age discrimination during the recruitment process.

With respect to age-related disability, older employees may experience medical issues, and employers must accommodate age-related health issues in the exact same way that any other disability is accommodated. Some disabilities are far easier to accommodate than others. A defined physical limitation may be readily accommodated on a permeant basis by using an assistive device, whereas an invisible disability and/or cyclical disability may require a more flexible accommodation approach. For instance, an employee experiencing certain forms of arthritis may feel significant pain and require time off during flare-ups; however, the cyclical and sporadic nature of the required accommodation could present scheduling challenges. Far more challenging is understanding and accommodating a brain disorder (such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia). In such situations the employee may not even be aware of their own health issues, and the employer will be tasked with determining if any medical conditions even exist and if so, if such can be accommodated.

The aging population may also result in increased requests for family status accommodations, when children or relatives request time off to assist in the caregiving needs of their elders.

This article will explore some key human rights considerations and interesting case-law related to our aging workforce.

>> Download Article

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation
Françoise Morissette, Queen’s IRC Facilitator, 2016

Homelessness is often viewed as a daunting, if not a wicked problem. Yet, Alberta has shown the way to solutions that deliver results. In contrast with other Canadian jurisdictions who favour municipal approaches, Alberta broke new ground in 2009 by defining an ambitious vision for the entire province: Ending homelessness in 10 years, instead of simply ‘managing’ or ‘reducing’ it. To achieve this audacious goal, Alberta had to dramatically alter the way it thought and acted about homelessness. Here’s how it began:

In 2007, then Premier Ed Stelmach set out to capture the state of homelessness, as the problem was escalating. What factors were contributing to its rapid growth?

  • Environmental: The influx of workers moving to Alberta during economic boom times, combined with insufficient housing, generated a crisis.
  • Systemic: The Managing Homelessness approach wasn’t robust enough to deal with the surge.
  • Individual: The combination of aggravating circumstances in the environment, mixed with insufficient and poorly coordinated service delivery, pushed more ‘at risk people’ into homelessness.

>> Download Article

Flashback Feature:
Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value
Marilee Marcotte, 1987

Research on the male-female wage differential in Canada has produced evidence of a substantial link between occupational segregation and low female earnings. Because most Canadian labour jurisdictions have enacted equal pay for equal work legislation, this component of the wage gap is unaffected. Consequently, programs which attempt to desegregate occupations and/or resolve pay inequities arising from occupational segregation are being debated.

A possible alternative, equal pay for work of equal value, is the subject matter of this paper. The purpose of the essay is to evaluate the principle and experience of equal pay for work of equal value at the Canadian federal level, to discover whether broader application is warranted.

>> Download Article



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