Labour minister hails progress on pay equity but says it will take time to deliver

·2 min read

OTTAWA — The government is proposing to give federally regulated companies at least three years to develop plans to give their female employees equal pay for work of equal value.

Companies that face a boost in their payroll costs by more than one per cent as a result of pay equity would get even more time to phase it in.

And the clock won't even start ticking until the Pay Equity Act, passed nearly two years ago, actually goes into force sometime next year.

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi acknowledged Friday that it's taking longer than many would like.

"Yes, people would like to see this happen overnight. So would I," she said in an interview.

But she argued that the move to ensure women receive equal pay for work that is of equal value to that performed by men is a "transformational" change that must be done methodically.

"We have to get it right and, I would suggest, it isn't easy … It absolutely can't happen overnight. To get this right is going to take time."

Tassi noted that it's not as easy as ensuring men and women are paid the same for doing the same work. It requires complex analyses to compare the value of work done in different jobs.

The government posted its proposed regulations for the pay equity regime Friday, a step that Tassi called "an important milestone."

Interested parties have 60 days to comment, after which the regulations will be finalized, followed by "a potential coming into force date" of the Pay Equity Act "later in 2021."

The legislation will apply only to employers in federally regulated public and private sector workplaces, such as banks, air and rail transport, telecommunications and broadcasting.

The government estimates achieving pay equity will cost federally regulated private sector employers $1.95 billion over 10 years.

Tassi said the move toward pay equity in the federal sphere is "demonstrating fantastic leadership" that will encourage private sector employers to follow suit.

"We are demonstrating that this can be done, it should be done, it's economically advantageous that it is done," she said, arguing that about one-third of Canada's economic growth over the past 40 years has been generated by the greater participation of women in the workforce.

On average in Canada, women earn 12 per cent less than men, the third-largest gender pay gap among G7 countries and the seventh largest in the OECD.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2020.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press