The Ontario Government has announced a new bill designed to eliminate the gender gap that continues to exist between the salaries paid to men and women.

The pending legislation is Bill 203, The Pay Transparency Act, 2018. It has passed first reading and is presently intended to take effect on January 1, 2019.

The Proposed Bill

The new law, if enacted in its current form, would provide the following measures designed to allow for increased transparency in salary levels:

  1. Mandate that all publicly advertised jobs show an expected salary range or rate;
  2. Prevent the employer from asking questions to a job applicant about his or her compensation history;
  3. Require employers with greater than 500 employees to track and report compensation differentials based on gender and other specific diversity characteristics, and to report this information to the Ministry;
  4. Allow for compliance officers to conduct workplace audits; and
  5. Impose financial penalties for violations of this new law.

The Existing Protections

The new legislation will work in tandem with the present Employment Standards Act (ESA) with its legislated intent of “equal pay for work of equal value” as set out in Sec. 42(1).

This existing law requires the same pay be made to persons where:

(a) they perform substantially the same kind of work in the same establishment;

(b) their performance requires substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility; and

(c) their work is performed under similar working conditions. 2017, c. 22, Sched. 1, s. 27.

This provision does allow for a disparity in wages when the differing rate is based on a seniority system, a merit system, or a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.

Reprisal Remedy

The new bill, as is the case with the ESA, has a remedy section based on reprisal such as termination in response to an employee seeking to enforce or even inquire about their rights. There is a similar reverse onus which requires the employer to prove innocence, as opposed to the converse.

Let Advice Guide Your Actions

This new law has the fair intention of eliminating wage differentials based on gender. Employers must prepare for the pending changes and take the necessary steps to ensure the fair treatment of all employees without regard to gender. More importantly, employers must take note of the mandatory steps contained in the new bill.

Employees must be alert to the new rights created and, in particular, the reprisal remedy available when facing retaliatory conduct who inquire about wage rates and present protections against reprisal in the ESA. This is a very powerful remedy which can lead to reinstatement and substantial lost wages.

If you have questions about wage equality legislation and how the upcoming changes will affect you, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins. We regularly advise both employees and employers on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416 364 9599 to schedule a consultation.