The Ontario Pay Equity Office (PEO), which is
responsible for the enforcement of Ontario's Pay Equity
Act(the Act), launched the pilot Gender Wage Gap Program (the Program) in
January, 2011. The Program initially targeted employers with more
than 500 but recently began targeting medium-sized employers with
250 or more employees The Program is designed to assist
in determining the extent to which gender wage gaps exist today in
workplaces in the province. The primary goal of the Program is to
collect sufficient data to enable the PEO to assess employers'
pay equity practices and compliance with the Act.
Which employers are affected?
As mentioned above, Ontario workplaces with more than 500
employees have been contacted in accordance with the Program. The
PEO will next be contacting medium-sized employers with 250 to 500
employees. The PEO's intention is to eventually canvass all
How will employers be affected by the Program?
Upon receiving a request letter from the PEO, employers will be
asked to submit current, basic wage data on positions within their
organizations. This is a significant change. Prior to the
Program, employers could only come under the scrutiny of the PEO
through the random Monitoring Program or in response to an
employee or union complaint.
When do employers need to comply?
Employers have 45 days from the date of the PEO's initial
request to provide the office with the requested information. If
the information is not provided, the employer's file "may
be referred for further review" by a Review Officer of the Pay
Equity Commission. A Review Officer has the authority to require an
employer to provide, if required, evidence of a valid pay equity
plan that covers all employee groups and is up-to-date. Failure to
comply with a Review Officer's request may lead to a finding
that the employer is not in compliance with the Act which can carry
with it significant financial requirements.
What is the purpose of the Program?
According to the PEO, "information gathered by the Pay
Equity Office will be used to assess whether wage gaps appear to
persist in Ontario workplace compensation practices" and that
the data collected "may be used in aggregate, anonymized form
and may be made public or shared." However, the PEO has disclosed its intention is not to
publish any information that could identify individuals or respond
to any requests for public access to information that could
identify individuals and/or their compensation rates.
While individual data that is being collected by the PEO will
not be shared with other government organizations, the PEO itself
can act on the data it collects. Any data submitted may potentially
trigger a referral to Review Services as part of the pay equity
compliance program and can result in a compliance audit.
A finding of non-compliance with pay equity requirements under
the Act can be costly, as it may result in an employer being
required to make retroactive pay equity adjustments of up to 1% of
the employer's payroll, going back to the date the employer
should have been in compliance with the Act. Accordingly, it is
important for employers to be aware of and ensure compliance with
their pay equity obligations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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