Pay transparency legislation is quickly gathering steam in Canada as provincial governments take steps towards shrinking the gender wage gap.
Prince Edward Island was first to the post with pay transparency provisions in June 2022. While Newfoundland and Labrador’s Pay Equity and Transparency Act received royal assent in November 2022, its pay transparency provisions haven’t been proclaimed into force.
This year, Nova Scotia’s Pay Equity and Pay Transparency Act received first reading on Oct. 27 and Ontario announced plans to require salary ranges in job postings earlier in November. Meanwhile, Manitoba’s new provincial government — which proposed pay transparency laws while in opposition but saw them voted down twice — has recently indicated it will likely reintroduce legislation.
As of Nov. 1, British Columbia employers are required to post expected salaries and wages for publicly advertised job postings. The province released an additional guidance stating that, while job postings don’t need to include information on bonuses, overtime, tips or benefits, the posted salary range must have a specific upper and lower limit.
The guidance also confirms this requirement applies to jobs posted on third-party websites and to jobs advertised in other jurisdictions if the position is open to B.C. residents. It doesn’t apply to internal posting or general ‘help wanted’ advertisements. “For example, the postings can’t have unspecified limits like ‘$25 per hour and up’ or ‘up to $35 hourly,’” says Gary Clarke, co-head of Stikeman Elliott LLP’s national labour and employment group.
Additionally, B.C. requires certain employers to collect information on employees’ gender category. Clarke says the requirements “aren’t particularly” burdensome. “Preparing them will be tedious and take some time and, as a first step, employers will need to collect employee information on gender. Some may have collected information based on sex but not on gender and they’ll have to be careful about it.”
As for Ontario, it’s difficult to say what the new legislation will look like, says Maggie Sullivan, an employment lawyer with Dentons Canada LLP. While the previous Ontario government enacted the Pay Transparency Act in 2018, she notes the law was never proclaimed into force.
“All we know now is that it will require employers to disclose expected salary ranges. . . . On the basis of [Ontario’s 2018 legislation] and what B.C. has done, we could anticipate reporting requirements. What we do know is that this type of worker legislation has recently been a priority for the government.”
While B.C.’s legislation had no specific enforcement provision, it did create a new role for a director of pay transparency, she says, noting it could possibly serve as a model for Ontario. “The director would have been responsible for supporting compliance among employers and receiving reports on non-compliance, so I believe that compliance and eventually enforcement will be a focus of the [new] legislation.”
Despite the recent movement on pay transparency, Canada is lagging behind other developed jurisdictions, notes Clarke. “It seems we’re a little late to the party. At least 12 states and some cities in the U.S., including New York, have pay transparency legislation in place and the European Union’s Pay Transparency Directive came into force in June, requiring all member states to ratify the legislation within three years.”