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Canada's gender pay equity rules for many companies come into effect Aug. 31

Last Updated Jul 7, 2021 at 8:40 pm EDT

FILE - A Canada flag is pictured with the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Starting Aug. 31, federally regulated companies will have three years to ensure they are compliant with pay equity rules

Beginning summer 2024, Canada's pay equity commissioner will be able to audit federally regulated companies, issue fines

Federal government can only implement pay equity rules for workplaces within its jurisdiction

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The Trudeau government says new regulations forcing federally regulated companies to provide pay equity to men and women will start taking effect at the end of August. Those businesses will have three years to make sure they are in line with the rules.

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi says it’s time to end the gender pay gap.

“When you looked at the average hourly wages among full-time and part-time workers, for every dollar that a man earned in Canada, a woman earned 89 cents,” Tassi said.

“[We want to move] closer to a future where women entering the workforce needn’t have to give any thought to whether they are being paid fairly for their work of equal value,” she added.

The new regulations have been in the works for years and will be in force as of Aug. 31. At that time, industries in federally regulated businesses — such as banking, telecommunications, media, and airlines — will have to start work to go over their payrolls to identify any gender pay differences. They will be given three years to fix them.

After that, Pay Equity Commissioner Karen Jensen says she has the power to audit companies and issue fines if they don’t comply.

“For smaller employers and unions, there is a $30,000 fine. For larger employers and unions, the fine would be $50,000,” she explained.

A fine could be issued as a one-time penalty or issued for each day the company is in violation.

The federal NDP has criticized the three years the government is giving companies to comply with the rules, saying it will take too long to make a difference.

In January, NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen, the critic for women and gender equality, said she was concerned that the wording of the regulations mean some women could be waiting up to a decade before pay equity becomes a reality in their workplace.

Mathyssen called the long timeline “unacceptable,” and hoped prodding the Liberals in Parliament would push the government to close the gap more quickly.

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She said if the Liberals had insisted in 2018 that the regulations should come into effect imminently, “women in federally regulated workplaces now would have pay equity.”

“You can have a bit of time, but these extended periods being so long, some women will have to wait up to eight (years),” she said.

The federal government can only implement these rules for workplaces within its jurisdiction, but Tassi says she is trying to work with provinces to enact similar rules.

‘It’s been a long time coming’

Debby Carreau, who is the CEO of Inspired HR, tells NEWS 1130 that she thinks workplaces will be more productive, society will be more equal, and we will all be further ahead as a result of the requirement.

“While it’s been a long time coming,” she says “it’s groundbreaking. If we look at many countries across the world, Canada is going to be viewed as a leader in this area, which is very exciting. And it’s also very good for our economy.”

While the regulations won’t take effect right away, she says it will at least push employees and workplaces toward progress.

“The sentiment is often different than the execution, it does take time, but it moves things in the right direction. And just by setting the standard, it also holds the workplaces accountable and helps people have those difficult conversations,” she says.

“For example, if a female employee feels that she’s making the 89 cents that we see in Canada versus a male counterpart, they can now be comfortable having those conversations and know that it’s the right thing to do to bring it forward.”

– With files from the Canadian Press

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