Canada: Proposed Legislation Targets the Wage Gap between Men and Women in Ontario

According to a news release issued by the Ontario Government, the gender wage gap in Ontario has remained stagnant for the last decade, with women earning approximately 30 per cent less than men.

On March 6, 2018, the Ontario Government introduced Then Now Next: Ontario’s Strategy for Women’s Economic Empowerment, which outlines a three year plan to increase gender equity, challenge bias and eliminate barriers women face at work, at home and in their communities. The strategy includes the introduction of Bill 203, the Pay Transparency Act, 2018 (“Bill 203” or the “proposed legislation”). If Bill 203 is passed, Ontario will become the first province in Canada to legislate pay transparency.

The proposed legislation, if passed, will accomplish the following:

  • Prohibit employers from asking for compensation history information about an external applicant applying for a job.
  • Require employers who advertise external job postings for specific jobs that are advertised to the general public to include information about the expected compensation for the position in the posting. This requirement will not apply to recruitment campaigns, general “help wanted” signs, or positions that are advertised to existing employees only.
  • Require prescribed employers to file and post pay transparency reports that contain information relating to the employer, the employer’s workforce composition and differences in compensation in the employer’s workforce with respect to gender and other characteristics. The Ministry of Labour may publish an employer’s pay transparency report, or otherwise make it available to the public.
  • Prohibit employers from intimidating, dismissing, or otherwise penalizing an employee or threatening to do so because an employee has made inquiries about the employee’s compensation, disclosed the employee’s compensation to other employees, made inquiries about pay transparency reports, given information regarding the employer’s compliance to the Ministry of Labour or asked the employer to comply with the legislation. Where it is found that an employee’s employment was terminated in reprisal, the Ontario Labour Relations Board will have the power to reinstate the employee.
  • Provide for compliance measures, including investigations into possible contraventions and compliance inspections. The amount(s) of the penalty for contraventions is yet to be determined by regulations made under the proposed legislation.

Bill 203 must move through the second and third reading stages before being passed. If passed, Bill 203 will become law on January 1, 2019. The pay transparency report requirements will begin with the Ontario Public Service, then extend to employers with more than 500 employees, and eventually will apply to employers with more than 250 employees.

If the proposed legislation becomes law, employers must ensure that all hiring and pay practices comply with Bill 203 and must be sure to file and post pay transparency reports, as prescribed.

We will continue to monitor the status of Bill 203 as it proceeds through the legislative process and will provide further updates as needed.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Canada, please contact Robert Bayne, Partner at Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti (www.filion.on.ca) at rbayne@filion.on.ca
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