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What’s Happening to Pay Transparency? It’s Unclear.

The status of pay transparency in Canada has not been entirely transparent.

Pay transparency – allowing the public to access information about the pay of private sector employees – can help to combat gender wage gaps. It can work on a small scale: employees who know what others in the organization are making can better advocate for fair wages themselves. It can also work on a larger scale: employers who have to publicly disclose information about their male and female employees’ salaries are more likely to take proactive efforts to close pay gaps between the groups.

That’s why both the Ontario and federal governments have introduced pay transparency legislation. The Ontario Pay Transparency Act would:

  • prohibit employers from requesting information about a job candidate’s compensation history
  • require employers to include the salary or the salary range for the position in every job posting
  • require every employer with 100 or more employees to report to the Ministry of Labour about gender differences in compensation, and to post the report either online or in the workplace
  • prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee for disclosing their compensation to another employee.

For federally-regulated employers, the Employment Equity Act already requires employers with 100 or more employees to report information about how they pay four different groups (women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities), but new amendments and regulations would enable the government to collect more detailed information to support pay transparency efforts.

Yet while the Ontario legislation was passed in May 2018 and the federal amendments in December 2018, as of October 2019, neither is yet in force. What’s going on?

In Ontario, following the 2018 provincial election, the new government put the legislation on hold in order to conduct public consultations. The consultations wrapped up on April 5, 2019, and we presume the government has been taking the time since to review the results. The legislature has been adjourned since June, and we hope to receive an update after it returns on October 28, 2019.

In the federal jurisdiction, it seems the plan was always for the new regulations to take effect sometime in 2020. The government wrapped up public consultations on September 9, 2019, and government business has since slowed down for the federal election campaign. After the election on October 21, 2019, we may learn more.

Pay transparency is probably still coming to both Ontario and Canada, but it may take a few more months before the details are clear.