Historic proactive pay equity legislation receives Royal Assent
December 13, 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, on October 29, 2018, the Government of Canada introduced a proactive pay equity regime that will ensure that women and men in federally regulated workplaces, including the federal private sector, the federal public service, Parliamentary workplaces, Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ offices, receive equal pay for work of equal value.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, along with her colleagues the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, and the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for Digital Government, highlighted that this historic legislation has received Royal Assent. This is a major milestone for Canadians and will fundamentally transform how the right to pay equity is protected by setting out clear steps for employers to follow in order to proactively achieve pay equity.
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, 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. We have taken action because 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 is an historic day, because when Canadian women in federally regulated industries can count on equal pay for work of equal value, our economy becomes stronger, families prosper, and communities thrive. Equality is a driver of economic growth, and our plan to grow the middle class while advancing equality is working. We know there is more work to do and we will continue to work with Canadians every step of the way.”
– The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality
“In everything we do, our Government is motivated by a simple but powerful idea – to provide Canadians with the opportunity to realize their full potential. This historic legislation builds on our commitment to a better, stronger, more equitable Canadian economy.”
– The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada and Minister for Digital Government
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.
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.
Legislation to modernize federal labour standards and improve the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) also received Royal Assent today. Changes to federal labour standards will better protect Canadian workers and help set the stage for good quality jobs. Improvements to the WEPP will increase the maximum financial support provided to workers who are owed wages when their employer files for bankruptcy or enters receivership.
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
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