Government of Canada introduces historic proactive pay equity legislation

News release

New regime to include enforcement measures

October 29, 2018                    Ottawa, Ontario                    Employment and Social Development Canada

Advancing gender equality is not just good for women, it’s good for all Canadians. When Canadian women can count on equal pay for work of equal value, our economy grows stronger, families prosper and communities thrive.

That’s why, today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, along with her colleagues, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women, and the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for Digital Government, marked the introduction of proactive pay equity legislation for the federal jurisdiction: an Act to Establish a Proactive Pay Equity Regime within the Federal Public and Private Sectors (Pay Equity Act). This historic legislation will ensure that more women are fairly compensated for their hard work.

Under a proactive pay equity regime, employers will need to examine their compensation practices and ensure that women and men working in federally regulated workplaces, including the federal private sector, the federal public service, Parliamentary workplaces and Ministers’ offices, receive equal pay for work of equal value.

A Pay Equity Commissioner will be appointed within the Canadian Human Rights Commission and will play both education and enforcement roles with regard to the legislation. The Commissioner, supported by a unit of subject-matter experts, will be responsible for assisting individuals in understanding their rights and obligations under the Act and facilitating the resolution of disputes related to pay equity. The Commissioner will have dedicated funding and a range of enforcement tools, including the power to initiate audits, to conduct investigations, and to issue orders and administrative monetary penalties.

Additionally, proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act (PESRA) will extend proactive pay equity requirements to Parliamentary workplaces in a manner that respects Parliamentary privilege.


“Proactive pay equity is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. The bottom line is that when people are treated fairly and are given an equal opportunity to succeed and to reach their full potential, we all benefit.”

– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

"Today's introduction of proactive pay equity legislation is an historic step to advance gender equality and help eliminate the gender wage gap. Women have waited too long to receive equal pay for work of equal value. Proactive pay equity for federally regulated employees, along with investments our government has made in quality childcare, affordable housing and poverty reduction, as well as measures we have brought in to create more flexible work arrangements, promote more women in STEM fields, the trades and entrepreneurship, and ensure zero tolerance for workplace harassment and violence, will increase women's financial security, grow the middle class and strengthen our economy so that all Canadians benefit."

– The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women

“The Government of Canada, as the largest federally regulated employer, should lead in setting the standard in terms of equal opportunities for women and men. This historic legislation will help build an even better and more equitable public service to serve Canadians in our rapidly changing world.”

– The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for Digital Government

Quick facts

  • In Canada in 2017, for every dollar a man earned, a woman earned 88.5 cents on the dollar as measured in hourly wages for full-time workers. When comparing overall earnings on an annual basis, women earned even less – just 69 cents for every dollar earned by men.

  • The gender wage gap is a complex issue with multiple underlying causes. In addition to the undervaluation of work traditionally performed by women, these causes include, among other things:

    • over-representation of women in part-time work;
    • labour market segmentation of women in low paying sectors;
    • women’s lack of representation in senior positions;
    • bias and discrimination in the workplace; and
    • women’s greater share of unpaid work.

    While proactive pay equity legislation is an important tool that will contribute to reducing the gender wage gap, it needs to be part of a broader array of policy tools, such as the Government’s investments in early learning and child care, improved financial support for training and learning, enhanced parental leave flexibility, pay transparency, the continued appointment of skilled, talented women into leadership positions, and better access to flexible work arrangements.

  • On October 25, 2018, the Government of Canada released its Proactive Pay Equity What We Heard report, which summarizes feedback from stakeholders, including key employer, employee and advocacy stakeholders. In developing the proactive pay equity regime, input received during the 2017 Labour Program consultations with employee, employer and advocacy stakeholders has been taken into consideration, as well as the reports of the Special Committee on Pay Equity (ESPE) and the Pay Equity Task Force (Bilson) and lessons learned in Ontario and Quebec, the only two jurisdictions in Canada that have had a proactive approach to pay equity applying to both the public and private sectors for many years.

  • Since 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act has recognized pay equity as a right for employees in the federal jurisdiction under a complaint-based system (section 11). As a result, it does not require employers to actively examine their compensation practices; instead, the onus is placed on employees to bring complaints forward to redress instances of pay discrimination. A proactive system would take that burden off employees and would instead require employers to undertake a pay equity analysis to ensure that their compensation practices are in line with pay equity requirements.  

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Véronique Simard
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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