Common challenges

Say What? Inclusive Language in the Workplace

July 19, 2018

In the past few decades, Canadian employers have made great strides in preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We still have a ways to go, though, especially as the language we use to describe a range of identities frequently changes. Many of us have experienced that awkward moment when a grandparent unknowingly uses a term that was once deemed respectful and is now considered out of date, or even offensive. A similar experience might happen in the workplace with employees of all ages. Often employees may not even be aware of the true meaning of the words they are choosing, or why someone would find such usage offensive.

Regardless of intent, the words you and your staff use to communicate with each other every day also say a lot about your organization’s ability to welcome—and retain—diverse employees. If unchecked, inappropriate slang terms, or jokes based upon differences in race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation, for example, could send the message to current and future employees that the organization endorses, even implicitly, those opinions. When it occurs in the workplace, such speech may also violate human rights legislation that prohibits harassment across several grounds of discrimination, leading to expensive lawsuits.

As an employer or manager, you’re likely already aware of the value of a workforce that reflects Canada’s diverse population, and strive to foster such an environment in your organization. An inclusive workplace helps you meet the demands of a competitive recruitment market, contributes to workplace innovation, and helps connect your organization to diverse customer sectors. However, given how the language we use to describe a range of identities frequently changes, you may be wondering what more you can do to support your employees and ensure everyone feels welcome in your workplace. Download our FREE Inclusive Language Guide, which will provide some helpful tips for ensuring that inclusivity is always the word of the day.

  Download Now

While HRdownloads uses reasonable efforts to maintain this site/blog and its Services in an up-to-date fashion, it does not warrant the completeness, timeliness or accuracy of any information contained on this site/blog or any of its Services, whether in English or French, and may make changes thereto at any time in its sole discretion without notice. All information and Services provided by HRdownloads are provided to members and/or users “as is”, “with all faults,” “as available” and at the sole risk of members and/or users. Our human resources information and recommendations are based on seasoned, best practice field experience and should not be construed as legal advice.