Federally regulated employers will have to start looking at how they plan to address gender wage gaps by the end of the summer.
Labour Minister Filomena Tassi announced on Wednesday that the long-awaited Pay Equity Act will be coming into force on Aug. 31. Employers with 10 or more employees will then have three years to develop and implement a pay equity plan. This also includes parliamentary workplaces and the Prime Minister’s and ministers’ offices. The change will impact roughly 1.31 million people.
Tassi said ensuring workers are fairly paid and treated with dignity will unlock the potential of so many people who want to contribute to Canada’s economy.
“When you look at the average hourly wages among full-time and part-time workers, for every dollar that a man earned in Canada, a woman earned 89 cents,” she said. “I think we can all agree that’s not acceptable. That is something that we needed to change.”
The act was introduced as part of the federal government’s 2018 budget and received royal assent in December that year. Karen Jensen was later named as Canada’s first pay equity commissioner in September 2020. She will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the act once it comes into effect.
Jensen said she has been speaking with union members and employers who support having a more rigorous pay equity regime.
“(Employers) understand their obligations, and more importantly, they want to pay their employees fairly, without regard to gender, race or any other discriminatory factor,” she said. “They have said that they need the support to do this, especially now. That is what my office is doing. We are producing the tools that will enable employers to do the right thing.”
Jensen said the act allows employers the option to spread out the wage increases over a period of time if the total amount of the increases is more than one per cent of the payroll. Those experiencing extreme financial challenges can also apply for an extension to the phase-in period.
Tassi said she would have liked to have seen the changes come in sooner but felt it was important not to rush.
“We also have to acknowledge that we are challenging deeply embedded norms that have evolved in the workforce about how we value work that is being done by women,” she said. “Although the global (COVID-19) pandemic has not helped us speed things up, it sure has shone the light on this issue and demonstrated the importance of moving forward and moving forward now.”