New federal employment equity, safety legislation taking effect

A series of legislative changes to Canada’s labour code aiming to make workplaces healthier, safer and fairer took effect as of Jan. 1, 2021.

The changes include new pay transparency regulations for federally regulated, private sector employers with 100 or more employees. According to a press release, the move makes Canada the first country to make wage gap information for women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities working in federally regulated workplaces publicly available.

Read: Federal government publishes employment equity regulations

The legislation was introduced after the government published a report on pay equity in late 2018 after consulting with some 40 stakeholders. The first release of aggregated wage gap information is expected in the winter of 2023.

The amendments also bring anti-harassment and violence legislation into effect, as well as extending the labour code to include administrative monetary penalties for employers who don’t comply with health and safety or labour standards. The extended rules add a new enforcement tool, plus there’s a new provision prohibiting employers from treating employees as though they’re not employees — such as classifying employees as independent contractors — which requires employers to prove otherwise if a complaint is filed under the code. A new head of compliance and enforcement was also announced who will perform day-to-day administration and enforcement of occupational health and safety, labour Standards and administrative monetary penalties of the code.

Read: Federal government publishes report on pay equity

“The regulatory changes [that came] into force . . . will create work environments in which federally regulated workers will be better able to achieve their potential,” said Filomena Tassi, Canada’s minister of labour, in the release. “These changes will benefit workers, employers, the economy and all Canadians.”

Employers will have time to adjust to the changes, as the monetary penalties for administrative violations — for example, recordkeeping and reporting requirements — won’t be imposed until Jan. 1, 2022.

Read: Feds introducing new regulations to prevent workplace harassment, violence