Federal government announces pay equity legislation

Legislation reducing gendered wage inequity set to be implemented in 2018

By Savanah Tillberg

Patty Hajdu making announcement on pay equity legislation. PC: Patty Hajdu facebook page

Patty Hajdu making announcement on pay equity legislation. PC: Patty Hajdu facebook page

On October 6th, 2016, members of the federal government, including Ministers Scott Brison and MaryAnn Mihychuk and local MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North Patty Hajdu, announced the government’s plan to establish pay equity legislation for federally regulated sectors. The goal of this legislation is to reduce wage inequality between genders and ensure that work of equivalent value receives equivalent pay.

The Liberal Party plans to incorporate the legislation into practice by 2018. Hajdu, who is also the Minister of the Status of Women for federal cabinet, justified the delayed establishment of this legislation by stating that the matter of pay equity is “complex .” She emphasized that redirecting Canada’s current approach to pay equity to a more proactive method will take time and careful consideration.

Members of the Liberal Party stressed that Canada’s current approach to pay equity often involves employees being forced to lodge complaints regarding wage discrepancies, which often lead to lengthy court battles. Mihychuk said the current means to achieve equal pay is “burdensome, costly and unfair to workers.” Treasury Board President Scott Brison added, “Canadians deserve equal pay for work of equal value. They should receive it when it is earned, not years after, through fighting in courts”.

The federal government hopes that this new proactive legislation will allow for employers to regularly review their compensatory system, and for any gender-based wage inconsistencies to be adjusted within the companies themselves. Hajdu stated, “We want to make sure that employers from all different sectors have the capacity, [and tools] that [are] usable and [do] not unduly burden [employers] administratively”.

The new legislation faced criticism from New Democratic Party MPs, as it is not to be tabled until 2018. They expressed frustration and disappointment towards the notion that women will be forced to wait another 18 months before they will experience pay equity. New Democrats Sheri Benson and Karine Trudel said: “Enough is enough. Pay equity is a human right and Canadian women should not be made to wait any longer to see their rights implemented”.

UFCW Canada, which is Canada’s leading private-sector union and represents more than a quarter of a million workers in Canada, expressed their disappointment in the legislation announcement as well. “Pay equity is a basic human right. Equity delayed is equity denied, so we call on the federal government to act swiftly to introduce proactive pay equity legislation before the end of 2016,” said the national president of UFCW Canada, Paul Meinema.

Hajdu argued that the legislation requires all the time necessary to ensure that it is done properly and is effective and spoke of her personal experience to outline the importance of taking time to create the tools necessary to achieve pay equity. Hajdu, who previously worked for a small, non-for-profit employer when pay equity was originally introduced, said, “I can tell you, it was incredibly costly, it was incredibly labour intensive and, in fact, we did not have the expertise within [to comply].”

The cost of pay equity to the federal government was acknowledged, however Brison said the exact cost is unknown and hinges on the specifics of the legislation. For now the liberal Party’s main objective is to spend the next 18 months creating and fine-tuning the tools and details of the upcoming legislation in order to steer Canada in a more progressive direction when approaching pay equity.

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