Federal government publishes report on pay equity

The federal government has published its report on pay equity after consulting with some 40 stakeholders in moving forward with pay equity legislation.

Drawing on the feedback of employer and employee representatives, as well as organizations focused on proactive pay equity in federally regulated workplaces, the report looks at four topics: the new pay equity legislation’s coverage; implementing pay equity; maintaining pay equity and reporting requirements; and roles and responsibilities.

In terms of coverage, both employers and employees agreed that Ontario’s and Quebec’s practice of exempting workplaces with fewer than 10 employees is acceptable and that proactive pay equity should apply to firms in the federal contractors program.

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However, the groups disagreed about which classes of workers should be exempt from the legislation. Employers felt students, casual employees, temporary employees and senior management should be exempt, while employees and advocacy groups felt the new legislation should be as inclusive as possible.

The groups also disagreed on how pay equity legislation will be implemented. Employees and advocates felt it should be based on all of an employers’ operations and comparisons, and should be as broad as possible, while employers felt flexibility and discretion should be provided in the legislation, allowing for multiple pay equity plans under the same employer.

“When Canadian women can count on equal pay for work of equal value, our economy grows stronger, families prosper and communities thrive,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour, in a news release. “Combined with the action we’re taking on other fronts — such as enhanced parental leave flexibility, pay transparency and better access to flexible work arrangements — we expect to really move the dial and make progress towards greater gender equality in Canada.”

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As for reporting requirements and maintaining pay equity, employee stakeholders said they want regular maintenance activities, while employers felt reporting requirements would be enough to highlight any issues to be addressed in maintaining pay equity. They also felt maintenance could be tied to organizational changes, such as a new class of employee or a restructuring. Annual reporting is too onerous, noted the employers, opting generally for a checklist-based system completed every two to five years. Advocacy groups felt reviews for maintenance should be done after circumstances in the organization change or every two to three years, whichever is sooner.

Lastly, the report found employees and advocates felt the new legislation should mandate that both unionized and non-unionized employee representatives be involved in developing a plan and maintenance process for pay equity. Meanwhile, employers said workers should be involved in an advisory capacity but not in making decisions.

In general, the report found all stakeholders are in favour of pay equity and legislation with requirements that are well-articulated and clearly defined. Stakeholders also felt the legislation should have an oversight body to guide and support workplaces.

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