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Creating a better workplace for women – Tips & Essential HR Policy Templates

Mar 7, 2022 | Equity & Inclusion, HR Canada, HR Tips, Inclusion, Positivity, Women, Workplace

Women are exceptional and influential leaders and change-makers, yet they are denied opportunities, recognition and advancements. Even in 2022, they are stereotyped to only specific job roles and responsibilities. Many barriers and biases have declined over the years, but gender stereotypes continue to create problems in the progress of women’s careers. 

The government of Canada and provincial governments have enforced strict policies and laws concerning gender bias. Enforcing these essential policies can curb gender inequality and other challenges faced by women significantly. 

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Countless surveys and testimonies stand as solid proof for gender inequality, gender pay gap, and workplace harassment. Many of these challenges pre-date the pandemic- however, the Covid-19 crisis has only worsened the situation, forcing many women to quit their jobs and give up on their career dreams.

As businesses are starting to re-open or move to hybrid workplaces, let’s examine the challenges that must have forced women to quit entirely and find ways to bring them back to safer workplaces.

Challenges – Pre & post-pandemic 

Challenges faced by women at work are no secret. Let’s reflect on these problems again and again until we take action.

1. For the Trillionth Time – Gender Inequality

The workplace has been often referred to as inhospitable for women due to multiple forms of gender inequalities. Although many organizations prioritize gender diversity, the results aren’t great. The inequalities are evident in:

– Hiring
– Wage
– Career Advancement

Question: Do you see these inequalities at your organization? Do you plan to take action?

2. Hiring Bias 

Most organizations favour men while hiring because they believe men are better performers in specific job roles. This doesn’t seem right. We live in a period where women achieve the impossible; from going to space to climbing Everest, women have proven that they are equally capable. 

Question: Are your hiring practices fair? Do you provide equal opportunity to women in terms of job role, rate of pay, overtime, hours of work, holidays, benefits, leaves, and promotions?

3. The Widening Gender Wage Gap

Despite Canada’s equal pay and pay equity legislation, women still earn less than men on average. A report by Statistics Canada shows that women make approximately CAD 0.88 for every dollar earned by men (as measured by the wage ratio method). The report was pre-pandemic, and the current situation is much worse. The gender pay gap is a crucial indicator of gender equality in the workplace that only a few organizations track.

Question: Have you been unconsciously under-paying someone? Maybe it’s time you commit to “pay equity.”

4. Workplace Harassment, #MeToo, and Remote Harassment

Workplace harassment and #MeToo have been in the spotlight in recent years. The #MeToo movement brought out the shocking stories of numerous women facing sexual and non-sexual harassment in the workplace. These cases ranged from unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal or physical harassment; however, many women still silently take harassment of all sorts. 

The hybrid/remote working significantly reduced physical harassment, but remote harassment increased in the form of cyberbullying. This included unwelcome behaviour over video calls, sexual comments over chats etc. In many cases, the victims didn’t report as the offender was a senior and feared being fired.  

Question: When was the last time you asked your employees if they are facing harassment?

5. Pregnancy

Do you know that women lose their jobs over maternity discrimination? This is when pregnant women in the workplace are fired, not hired, or discriminated against during their pregnancy. During child-rearing years, when women take longer leaves, they have a much harder time getting rehired. 

Question: Would you hire or rehire a pregnant woman?

6. Representation & Career Advancement

Women continue to be significantly underrepresented at almost all levels – from entry to senior. As a result, many women believe that their chances for career advancement are limited. 

It’s no secret that many industries are dominated by men, especially in top leadership positions. As per 2020 stats, only 10% of executive-level roles are held by women in the tech industry.

Question: Do you think gender matters in career advancement? 

Policies that would help 

Here are the essential policies that will help you in creating a better workplace for women.

1. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

A Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policy is the first step towards creating an inclusive workplace with diversity and equity. A DEI policy will declare the responsibility of an organization in building and maintaining a diverse, respectful workplace, free from all forms of harassment in which the dignity and self-respect of every person are valued.


2. Pay Equity Policy

Pay Equity means compensating employees the same when they perform the same or similar job duties. The purpose of this policy is to demonstrate an organization’s dedication to Pay Equity, or providing equal pay for equal work, as legislated under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).

3. Hiring Policy

A hiring policy is a statement on how you hire. It outlines your organization’s preferred hiring practices and outline the processes the organization will follow to ensure its hiring practices are fair, consistent, equitable, in line with all applicable legislation such as the provincial law, and the Employment Standards Act, and committed to the principles of equality and diversity in the workplace.

4. Workplace  Anti-harassment Policy

An anti-harassment policy expresses your commitment to maintaining a workplace that’s free of harassment, so your employees feel safe and happy. The percentage of women among workplace harassment victims is very high compared to men. The anti-harassment policy ensures that the workplace is free of all sorts of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

5. Protected Leaves Policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline the job-protected leaves employees have a right to take under the ESA so that employees know their rights, and the organization manages employee leave in a fair and consistent manner. The protected leaves are: 

  • Pregnancy Leave
  • Parental Leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Family Responsibility Leave
  • Family Caregiver Leave
  • Family Medical Leave
  • Critical Illness Leave
  • Child Death Leave
  • Crime-related Child Disappearance Leave
  • Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave
  • Organ Donor Leave
  • Reservist Leave
  • Jury Duty Leave

6. Social Media Policy

Along with setting guidelines to maintain a positive image on the social media platforms, a social media policy helps an organization in preventing any harm to the organization, its employees, clients, or other involved parties that can arise if social media channels are misused, misrepresented, or abused in a way.

As per the policy, the organization will have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discriminatory comments based on gender identity, race, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or any other legally-recognized protected status.

7. Workplace Anti-violence

The purpose of this policy is to show that an organization is committed to providing a healthy, safe, and supportive work environment that is free from workplace violence and will not tolerate any such incidents that are perpetuated by or against an employee, client, volunteer, vendor, or visitor.

8. Code of Conduct

The purpose of this policy is to outline an organization’s expectations when it comes to the behaviour and conduct of its employees. Employees of the organization are expected to behave in a professional and courteous manner toward the organization, fellow employees, our clients, and the public at all times.

9. Right to Disconnect

The recently introduced RIght to Disconnect Policy is to state that an organization is committed to ensuring that its employees are able to maintain an appropriate work/life balance and fulfill their family responsibilities.

Download the preliminary version of the Right to Disconnect Policy here!


10. Human Rights and Discrimination Policy

The Human Rights and Discrimination Policy of an organization states that it is committed to upholding the Human Rights of all its employees. Specifically, the organization will ensure that every employee has a right to equal treatment under the protected grounds and aspects of employment established by law. 


Actions to Take at Organization Level 

We believe that employers can make a difference by taking action. We have laid down some tactics to combat gender inequality at your organization.


  1. Prioritize Gender Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

Creating a diverse and inclusive culture is fundamental to moving the needle on gender diversity. Take a dip check on what percentage of your employees are women, take a survey how many of them genuinely feel safe and comfortable at your workplace. Ask them what you can do to make the workplace safer and more inclusive. 


  1. The commitment of CEO and Senior level management

Do you have a woman in one of your senior-level positions? Share the story with a clear business case to set an example. Go beyond a verbal commitment to gender diversity by taking necessary action.


  1. Transparency & Tracking

Track the pay gaps, representation data, and hiring practices in your organization. Take necessary action to rectify issues. Set up a team/committee to address, investigate and escalate harassment issues. Encourage employees to speak up against harassment and take their complaints seriously. Take feedback from your employees about the initiatives. Honest employee feedback could be a driver of change.


  1. Leadership Opportunities & Career Ladders 

Inspire the women workforce in your organization by creating opportunities for them to grow along with the organization. Do you have someone you think is capable enough to lead a team? Trust her and give her a chance to lead. 


  1. Work-life balance

A good majority of women are responsible for all household and childcare work, compared to men. Many women have to bear family responsibilities and face hurdles at work. To help them, you can offer childcare support and flexibility programs and ensure work-life balance.

  1. Avoid Unconscious Bias

Employers must de-bias hiring, compensation, and promotion decisions and provide managers and supervisors with training programs to raise awareness of unconscious bias. Implement pay-equity policies and fair hiring practices free from unconscious gender bias.

  1. Create a safe and inclusive culture that respect women

An organization’s culture plays a crucial role in embracing gender diversity. Your workplace culture can influence your employees to treat everyone with dignity, respect and decency irrespective of their gender.

It isn’t only about gender bias. While some women face gender inequality, few others face discrimination based on their race, ability, sexual orientation and even physical appearance. Equality, diversity and inclusion will remain a distant dream until organizations acknowledge these challenges and take action to #BreakTheBias