Canadian people of colour, specifically employees who identify as black, East Asian and South Asian, are experiencing high levels of “emotional tax,” according to a study by Catalyst Canada Inc.

The study, which involved 700 Canadians of colour, found this tax is putting the overall health of these employees at risk and causing them to consider quitting their jobs. 

Emotional tax is “the combination of feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race and/or ethnicity, being on guard for experiences of bias and the associated effects on health, well-being and the ability to thrive at work,” noted a press release.

Read: How to use benefits to support diversity and inclusion

The study found that being on guard is a shared experience among people of colour in Canada —33 to 50 per cent of black, East Asian and South Asian professionals reported being highly on guard to protect against bias.

It also found this emotional tax contributes to Canada’s retention problem, with 50 to 69 per cent of respondents who are on guard against bias saying they have a high intent to quit their jobs. And this emotional tax is also associated with threats to health and well-being, noted the study. Between 22 and 42 per cent of respondents who are on guard against bias reported high rates of sleep issues.

“People of colour are an engine of Canada’s economy, yet they continue to face some of the workplace’s most entrenched hurdles, such as near invisibility in top leadership roles, pay inequities and discrimination,” said Tanya van Biesen, executive director for Canada at Catalyst. “Over time, these challenges take a heavy toll, impacting employees’ health and well-being. In times of talent and skill scarcity, companies must take intentional action to create empowering work environments that value people for their uniqueness and drive their intent to stay.”

Read: Employers including diversity objectives in benefits, culture programs: survey

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

Join us on Twitter

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required