Pay transparency in Canada: who has it?



Pay transparency has become an increasingly desired asset in the job market as more Canadians want open discussions about their wages while they grapple with sharply rising costs of living and ongoing pay discrepancies. 


The issue is especially pertinent to minority workers such as women, as research shows that their earnings have not been keeping up with inflation, potentially furthering the wage gap in Canada since COVID-19 hit.


A September report from the International Labour Organization found that pay transparency policies can help reveal pay disparities between men and women and pinpoint their underlying causes, and could “reduce broader gender inequalities in the labour market.”


New York City recently joined the bandwagon of U.S cities to pass legislation requiring most employers to list the salary range on all job postings, becoming one of the biggest job markets in the world to mandate pay transparency for workers.


On the other side of the world, the U.K. is currently spearheading a voluntary pilot program for employers to disclose their pay, while the European Union’s Pay Transparency Directive for large employers to provide salary ranges on job ads is likely to be implemented in 2024.


SO, WHERE DOES CANADA STAND? 


According to data from Indeed Canada, 66 per cent of new jobs posted on the platform contained salary information in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to 80 per cent globally and 78 per cent in the United States.


But a Canadian worker’s access to pay transparency rights really depends on if they’re a federally regulated or provincially regulated employee, Jan Borowy, a Toronto-based labour law lawyer, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Friday.


The federal government’s Pay Equity Act, which went into effect in January 2021, requires all federally regulated private-sector employers, including banks, radio and television broadcasters, telecommunications firms and airlines, to ensure workers receive equal pay for work of equal value and is meant to help women and other minority workers get fair compensation for their labour.


To achieve this, federally regulated employers are now required to report salary data for all workers “in a way that shows aggregated wage gap information,” with the initial compilation and distribution of the pay data scheduled for June 2022.


“The laws now applying to federally regulated workers in Canada, with robust pay transparency, are far better than anything New York or any other U.S. city is fiddling around with,” Borowy said.


“However, there are definitely gaps. The largest percentage of workers in Canada are covered under provincial jurisdictions.”


Currently, laws mandating pay transparency in the provinces are highly inconsistent. For example:


ONTARIO: A SHELVED MOVEMENT


The former Liberal government of Ontario introduced legislation called the Pay Transparency Act in 2018, requiring salary transparency in job postings, just weeks before the Progressive Conservatives’ Doug Ford was elected as premier. Since then, the measure has been shelved.


The act would have applied to all Ontario-based companies with more than 100 employees.


“It was a very, very important first step in the whole path to pay transparency,” Borowy said.


“It included things like: an employer could not ask about your former salary, could not take legal action in the event you started asking questions about your salary, and reports and analysis were expected to be filed by employers regarding wage gaps.”


The reasons why the act was shelved remain unclear, and Premier Ford’s office did not immediately respond to CTV News for comment.


Ontario represents one of Canada’s largest job markets. The province added 344,800 jobs in 2021 (a 4.9 percent rise), the highest annual increase in employment ever recorded, according to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.


Borowy says that she’s optimistic that change could be seen in Ontario through the work of women and other intersectional collective voices.


“The key thing to remember in Ontario is that there is a kind of robust pay transparency system set up. It’s just on the back burner.


“If you want to change that, pick up the phone and call Doug Ford’s office.”


BRITISH COLUMBIA: CONSULTATIONS UNDERWAY


The B.C. government promised in March that, as a first step, it would begin addressing the ongoing issue of wage disparity between men and women in the province.


Grace Lore, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, made the announcement in the legislature on International Women’s Day and said consultations will begin to help develop new “made in B.C.” pay transparency legislation.


“Transparency and accountability is a step to address the pay gap in B.C.,” she said. “A gap that is not just about gender, but is also racialized. It’s bigger for Indigenous women and girls, those living with disabilities, and newcomers.”


According to the government, B.C. is one of four provinces without either pay transparency or pay equity legislation, and has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the country, with women in the province making on average about 20 per cent less than men.


Consultations for the legislation closed this summer.


PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: LEGISLATION PASSED IN JUNE


Prince Edward Island approved legislation in June mandating that salaries appear on all public job postings.


According to the province’s website, employers will no longer be allowed to seek pay history information from applicants, all public job postings will need to include a proposed salary or salary range, and taking action against employees discussing or sharing salaries will be prohibited.


“It looks like Prince Edward Island has just addressed the first issue,” Borowy said.


“But, they haven’t actually turned and told employers to keep making detailed reports. Detailed reports that have to be made public and are enforceable are needed to make a difference.”


With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Vancouver



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