Wage transparency has become an increasingly desirable commodity in the labor market, as more Canadians want open discussions about their wages as they grapple with soaring costs of living and persistent wage inequality.
The issue is particularly relevant to minority workers such as women, as research shows their income has not kept pace with inflation, potentially widening Canada’s wage gap since the outbreak of COVID-19.
A September report by the International Labor Organization found that pay transparency policies can help uncover pay gaps between men and women and pinpoint their underlying causes, and that they could “reduce broader gender inequalities in the labor market”.
New York City recently joined the bandwagon of US cities to pass legislation requiring most employers to list salary ranges in all job postings and has become one of the largest labor markets in the world to mandate pay transparency for workers.
On the other side of the world, the UK is currently leading a voluntary pilot scheme for employers to disclose their salaries, while the European Union’s Pay Transparency Directive for large employers to disclose salary ranges in job advertisements is expected to be implemented in 2024.
WHERE DOES CANADA STAND?
According to data from Indeed Canada, as of Q4 2021, 66 percent of new jobs posted on the platform included salary information, compared to 80 percent globally and 78 percent in the United States.
But a Canadian worker’s access to pay transparency rights really depends on whether they’re a state or provincial-regulated employee, Jan Borowy, a Toronto-based labor lawyer, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Friday.
The federal government’s Equal Pay Act, which went into effect in January 2021, requires all federally-regulated private sector employers, including banks, radio and television stations, telecom companies, and airlines, to ensure that workers are and should be paid equal wages for work of equal value for women and others Help minority workers receive fair wages for their work.
To achieve this, federally regulated employers are now required to report payroll data for all workers “in a manner that displays aggregated pay gap information,” with initial compilation and distribution of payroll data scheduled for June 2022.
“The laws that now apply to state-regulated workers in Canada, with robust pay transparency, are far better than anything New York or any other US city is fumbling about,” Borowy said.
“However, there are definitely gaps. The largest percentage of workers in Canada fall under provincial jurisdiction.”
Currently, wage transparency laws across provinces are highly inconsistent. For example:
ONTARIO: A PROPOSED MOVEMENT
Ontario’s former Liberal government introduced a law called the Pay Transparency Act in 2018, mandating pay transparency in job postings, just weeks before Doug Ford was elected prime minister by the Progressive Conservatives. Since then, the measure has been shelved.
The law would have applied to any Ontario-based company with more than 100 employees.
“This was a very, very important first step on the whole journey to payment transparency,” Borowy said.
“It included things like: an employer couldn’t ask about your previous salary, couldn’t take legal action if you started asking questions about your salary, and employers were expected to file reports and analyzes about pay differentials.”
The reasons why the law was shelved remain unclear and Premier Ford’s office did not immediately respond to CTV News for comment.
Ontario is one of Canada’s largest job markets. The province added 344,800 jobs in 2021 (up 4.9 percent), the highest annual job growth on record, according to Statistics Canada’s Labor Force Survey.
Borowy says she is optimistic that change could be seen in Ontario through the work of women and other intersectional collective voices.
“The most important thing to remember in Ontario is that there is some kind of robust wage transparency system. It’s only on the back burner.
“If you want to change that, pick up the phone and call Doug Ford’s office.”
BRITISH COLUMBIA: CONSULTATIONS ONGOING
BC’s government pledged in March that as a first step it would begin to address the province’s persistent problem of the gender pay gap.
Grace Lore, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, made the announcement in the legislature on International Women’s Day and said consultations would begin to help develop new wage transparency legislation “made in BC”.
“Transparency and accountability is a step to addressing the pay gap in BC,” she said. “A gap that is not only gendered but also racial. It is bigger for indigenous women and girls, people with disabilities and newcomers.”
According to the government, BC is one of four provinces without pay transparency or pay equity laws and has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the country, with women in the province earning about 20 percent less than men on average.
Consultations for the legislation concluded this summer.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: LEGISLATION PASSED IN JUNE
Prince Edward Island passed legislation in June requiring salaries to appear on all public job postings.
According to the province’s website, employers are no longer allowed to collect payment history information from job applicants, all public job postings must include a proposed salary or salary range, and action against employees who discuss or share salaries is prohibited.
“It looks like Prince Edward Island just addressed the first issue,” Borowy said.
“But they haven’t really reached out and told employers to keep making detailed reports. Detailed reports that must be made public and enforceable are required to make a difference.”
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Vancouver