Extent of Protection
Canada is a country that takes pride in the diversity of its population. Although generally not required, many major companies in Canada have made concerted efforts to increase the diversity of their workforce. Certain federally regulated workplaces are also governed by the Employment Equity Act, which identifies and defines four groups (women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities) and helps ensure they have fair representation in the workforce.
In addition, certain jurisdictions in Canada including Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec also have pay equity legislation. Employees in jurisdictions without provincial pay equity legislation may seek equal pay protection under human rights legislation.
Complaint mechanisms for pay equity concerns are different in each jurisdiction. Generally, employees are able to make complaints to regulatory bodies alleging that an employer is not implementing or maintaining compensation practices that provide for pay equity. Such complaints are investigated in due course, and a decision is rendered which determines whether an employer is in compliance with the requisite statute. Employers who fail to cooperate during the investigatory stage may be subject to financial penalties. In jurisdictions without pay equity legislation, complaints may be made under human rights legislation.
Across Canada, pay equity commissions and human rights bodies hear and adjudicate pay equity complaints. Most recently, in 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a seminal decision on pay equity. In interpreting Quebec’s pay equity legislation, the Court recognised pay equity as a fundamental human right and expressly acknowledged the systemic nature of pay discrimination.
Employers in each jurisdiction must meet different statutory compliance requirements. For example, in Ontario, all private sector employers with more than 10 employees must establish and maintain compensation practices that provide for pay equity in every establishment of the employer. In addition, such employers must also prepare and post a pay equity plan. Employers are encouraged to review reporting and compliance requirements in each jurisdiction in which they operate.