Pay Equity

Which legislation addresses equal pay in my jurisdiction?

In Ontario there are three laws which provide for equal pay regulations: the Employment Standards Act, the equal pay provisions of which apply to the private and public sectors, the Human Rights Code which deals with general discrimination and applies to the private and public sectors, and the Pay Equity Act which applies to the public and private sectors (i.e. employers with 10 or more employees).

How does the law measure equality of pay?

Each law in Ontario that address equal pay measures equality of pay differently.

  • Employment Standards Act – looks at rate of pay
  • Human Rights Code – looks at equal treatment with respect to employment
  • Pay Equity Act – looks at compensation for work (i.e., all payments and benefits)

How does the law compare different kinds of work?

Each law in Ontario that address equal pay compares work differently.

  • Employment Standards Act – compares substantially the same kind of work, requiring substantially the same skill, responsibility, effort under similar working conditions
  • Human Rights Code – is not specific
  • Pay Equity Act – compares work of equal or comparable value. Determination of value is based on the composite of skill, effort, and responsibility normally required and conditions under which work is normally performed

What reasons does the law consider acceptable for differences in pay?

  • Employment Standards Act – seniority system; merit system; quantity or quality of production; any “factor other than sex”
  • Human Rights Code – special program designed to relieve economic disadvantage, or to assist persons to achieve equal opportunity; reasonable or bona fide qualification because of the nature of the employment
  • Pay Equity Act – seniority system; temporary training or development assignment equally available to male and female employees; red circling; merit compensation based on formal performance ratings; skills shortage causing a temporary inflation in compensation; differences resulting from bargaining strength, once pay equity has been achieved; some casual employment.

How do I make a complaint about equality of pay discrimination?

  • Employment Standards Act – An employment standards officer investigates and decides the case. He/she may determine the amount of money owed, and such amount is considered to be unpaid wages. The unpaid wages recovery procedures of the Act can be applied. If no complaint is filed, civil action is possible.
  • Human Rights Act – A complaint may be filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission which may also initiate it. The Commission investigates the complaint and may endeavor to effect a settlement. If it does not, the matter may be referred to the board of inquiry whose decision may in turn be appealed to the Divisional Court.
  • Pay Equity Act – A review officer first investigates objections and complaints, and endeavors to effect a settlement; the review officer may monitor the preparation and implementation of pay equity plans and assist the parties; appeals may be lodged, or referrals made to the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal; review officers and Hearings Tribunal are invested with sufficient powers to correct a situation in order that pay equity be achieved.

Are there restrictions on recovering wages if my complaint is successful?

  • Employment Standards Act – Assessment by employment standards officer is limited to $10,000. Normally, the recovery is limited to money that became due not more than six months before the facts came to the knowledge of the director.
  • Human Rights Act – The Commission may decide not to deal with a complaint if the subject of the complaint occurred more than six months before the complaint was filed. There is no limit on the amount.
  • Pay Equity Act – Employers are required to make annual adjustments of at least 1% of annual payroll until pay equity is achieved. Specific timetables for achieving pay equity are set out in the Act and apply to various categories of employers with 10 or more employees.
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