On April 12, 2016, the Human Resources Professional Association
("HRPA") released a white paper entitled Closing the
Gender Wage Gap, a Review and Recommendations. This Paper
examined existing pay equity research and the results of a
comprehensive survey of 912 HRPA members and serves as a timely
reminder for Canadian employers on their legal obligations to
ensure pay equity. The Paper concludes with a series of
recommendations for both government and business on ending pay
equity problems in the Canadian economy.
According to the Paper, Statistics Canada estimates that the
wage gap between women and men is anywhere between 12 per cent and
31.5 per cent. The Royal Bank of Canada also estimates that
Canadian incomes would soar $168 billion each year if the wage gap
was closed. The Paper examines a range of factors that contribute
to this pay disparity, some of which include unconscious biases and
stereotypes that affect educational and workplace choices for
women. The Paper makes a series of over 20 recommendations which
include expanding government training on pay equity issues,
introducing wage transparency rules, developing a pilot program to
combat negative stereotypes and implementing more provincial labour
All federally-regulated employers must comply with pay equity
requirements in Part III of the Canada Labour Code and the
Equal Wages Guidelines, 1986 (SOR/86-1082). In Ontario,
the Pay Equity Act, RSO 1990, c P 7, applies to all
employers in Ontario except for private sector employers with fewer
than ten employees. It requires that employers establish and
maintain compensation practices that provide for pay equity in the
workplace. In Québec, the Pay Equity Act, c
E-12.001 establishes similar obligations for provincially-regulated
Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia
have all enacted similar pay equity legislation, while
Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and British Columbia have not. In lieu
of this legislation, these latter provinces rely on policy
frameworks for negotiating pay equity with specific public sector
employees. Alberta is the only province with no specific pay equity
legislation or policy framework.
All Canadian employers should be aware that federal and
provincial human rights legislation also prohibits discrimination
in employment. In addition to enforcement mechanisms under pay
equity legislation, human rights legislation can be used as a tool
to address pay discrimination in both federally and
An employer's pay equity obligations will be fact-specific
and depend on the legislative framework governing the workplace.
Both public and private sector employers are strongly advised to
acquaint themselves with their statutory obligations and consult
with a legal professional should they have any pay equity
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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