Pay Equity Frequently Asked Questions
Before filing a request for information, please ensure you have reviewed the answers provided below to the frequently asked questions.
What is pay equity?
Pay equity is a fundamental human right. Pay equity is also known as equal pay for work of equal value. It means that if two different jobs contribute equal value to their employer's operations, where one job is commonly held by women and the other is commonly held by men, then the employees in these jobs should receive equal pay. “Equal pay for work of equal value” is like comparing apples to oranges – they are different, but equally nutritious. For example, you could compare the value of a truck mechanic job commonly held by men, to that of an account technician job commonly held by women.
For more information, please visit the What is Pay Equity page.
When must employers comply with the Pay Equity Act?
From the day they become covered by the Pay Equity Act, employers have three years to develop a pay equity plan. All employers subject to the Act must then update their pay equity plan every five years.
For more informations, please visit Employers’ responsibilities.
Am I covered by the Pay Equity Act?
The Pay Equity Act applies to federally regulated employers with an average of 10 employees or more. It covers three types of workplaces:
- Federally regulated private-sector workplaces
- Federally regulated public-sector workplaces
- Parliamentary institutions
Employees covered by the Act include:
- Non-management and management employees, which generally includes executives and Chief Executive Officers;
- Unionized and non-unionized employees;
- Full-time and part-time employees;
- Permanent, casual and temporary employees;
- Dependent contractors;
- Employees performing federally regulated activities as part of a separate unit for a provincial employer; and,
- Workers on long-term leave (e.g. sick leave, maternity leave).
Employers with fewer than 10 employees will continue to be subject to the pay equity requirements under the Canadian Human Rights Act. For more information, please visit Who is counted as an employee?.
When and how will I know if I’m eligible for a pay equity increase?
The Pay Equity Act requires employers to create and post a pay equity plan within three years of becoming subject to the Act. Employees who will receive an increase in compensation will be notified about the amount of the increase and when they will receive it through the posting of the pay equity plan and notice of increases. An increase will only be provided if the pay equity plan identifies differences in compensation between jobs commonly held by men and those commonly held by women.
If my organization is funded by the federal government, does this mean that I am covered by the Pay Equity Act?
No, organizations that are funded by the federal government are not necessarily covered by the Pay Equity Act.
For more information, please visit How do I know if the law applies to my workplace.
If I am a provincially regulated employer with a contract with the federal government for goods and services, am I covered by the federal Pay Equity Act?
Provincially regulated employers are not subject to the federal Pay Equity Act. The federal government has announced that pay equity requirements will be integrated into the existing Federal Contractors Program. However, these requirements are still under development by Employment and Social Development Canada and are not in place yet. The Pay Equity Commissioner is not responsible for the Federal Contractors Program.
Should an employee on parental leave or on leave without pay be counted for the purpose of determining the size of the employer under the Pay Equity Act?
Yes, an employee on parental leave or on leave without pay should be counted in the employee total. The term “employee” includes everyone who is employed by an employer, with a few exceptions such as students that are part of a student employment program or those that are employed solely during their vacation period.
Is it necessary to hire a consultant to develop a pay equity plan?
Some workplaces may decide to call on an external resource or a consultant to help them carry out the pay equity process for their organization, but it is not mandatory. If the employer has decided to form a pay equity committee or if the law requires it to form one, it is suggested that the committee members participate in the decision of whether to use a consultant.
Who can request the creation of a pay equity committee?
Under the Act, medium or large employers (100 employees or more) and small employers (10–99 employees) with any unionized employees must establish a pay equity committee.
Small employers who have no unionized employees can choose to form a committee on their own initiative. Their employees can also request the creation of a committee.
Who can participate in the pay equity committee?
Pay equity committee members are selected by the employer, the bargaining agent(s) and non-unionized employees. The committee must be composed of representatives from the employer and the employees covered by the pay equity plan.
A pay equity committee must have at least three members and meet the following requirements:
- At least two thirds must represent the employees who are covered by the plan;
- At least 50% of the members must be women;
- At least one member selected by the employer to represent it;
- Where there are unionized employees, at least one member selected by each of the bargaining agents; and,
- At least one member selected by non-unionized employees to represent them, if any.
For more information, please consult Establish a pay equity committee.
Do multiple pay equity plans require multiple pay equity committees?
Yes, if an employer is authorized to establish more than one pay equity plan, a separate pay equity committee must be established for each pay equity plan. Pay equity committee members should represent employees covered by each plan.
What happens if no consensus can be reached on the pay equity committee?
A pay equity committee can vote when it can’t reach consensus. The members who represent employees have one vote and the members who represent the employer have one vote. This means that all of the employee representatives and that all of the employer representatives should collectively agree on their respective vote beforehand. If the employee group cannot collectively agree on their vote, the vote of the employer group prevails.
If the vote is tied, the employer, bargaining agent or a member who represents non-unionized employees may notify the Pay Equity Commissioner that there is a “matter in dispute.” The Pay Equity Commissioner must then attempt to assist the parties in reaching consensus. Should they come to a voluntary settlement, they must notify the Commissioner.
For more information, please consult Establish a pay equity committee.
How are jobs classes and their gender predominance determined?
A group of positions form a job class if:
- they have similar duties and responsibilities;
- they require similar qualifications; and
- they are part of the same compensation plan and are within the same range of salary rates.
A job class can be made up of one position only.
A job class would be determined as predominantly female or male if:
- at least 60% of the positions in the job class are occupied by women or men;
- historically, at least 60% of the positions in the job class were occupied by women or men; or
- the job class is one that is commonly associated with women or men due to gender-based occupational stereotyping.
If a job class does not meet any of these criteria, it may be considered gender neutral.
What happens if there are no predominantly male or predominantly female job classes?
If an employer or committee determines that there is at least one predominantly female job class but no predominantly male job class in their workplace, the employer or pay equity committee will be required to follow one of the methods set out in the Pay Equity Regulations to complete the pay equity plan.
If there are predominantly male job classes but no predominantly female job classes, the following steps do not need to be completed:
- Value the work done in each of the job classes;
- Calculate total compensation in dollars per hour; and,
- Determine whether there are differences in compensation between job classes of equal value.
The pay equity plan still needs to be posted and updated every five years.
What are my rights under the Act as an employee?
You have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.
If you work for a federally regulated employer with 10 employees or more, you may be covered by the Pay Equity Act.
If you work for a federally regulated employer with fewer than 10 employees, you maintain your right to equal pay for work of equal value under section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
For more information, please consult You have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.
As an employee, can I file a complaint under the Pay Equity Act?
The Pay Equity Act sets out a proactive process that all applicable employers will have to follow to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. Proactive means an employer is required to complete the process even if they think there is no pay equity problem and even if no one has complained.
During the plan development process, however, employees can file a complaint with the Pay Equity Commissioner within 60 days from becoming aware of the following alleged conduct:
- You believe your employer has tried to influence or interfere with the selection of the non-unionized employee representative for the pay equity committee;
- You believe you have been retaliated against, by either your employer or your bargaining agent, for exercising your rights under the Act; or,
- You believe that your employer or your bargaining agent has acted in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner in the context of their pay equity work.
As an employee, you can also file a notice of objection within 60 days after the final pay equity plan is posted if you are in a workplace without a committee and you disagree with the content of the plan.
For more information, please visit When and how can I make a complaint.
As a bargaining agent, can I file a complaint under the Pay Equity Act?
Yes. As a bargaining agent, you can file a complaint under the Pay Equity Act in certain situations. For example, if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the employer of the employees you represent has attempted to influence or interfere with the selection of non-unionized employee representatives on the pay equity committee, you may file a complaint. You may also file a complaint if you believe that the employer has acted in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that has affected the employees you represent or is likely to affect them. Complaints must be filed within 60 days of becoming aware of the alleged contravention or behaviour.
As an employer, can I file a complaint under the Pay Equity Act?
Yes. As an employer, you can make a complaint against a bargaining agent in certain situations. For example, if you have reasons to believe that the bargaining agent has not kept confidential the information you shared with them during the pay equity process, you can file a complaint with the Pay Equity Commissioner. You may also file a complaint if you believe that a bargaining agent has acted in bad faith or in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that has affected you or is likely to affect you. Complaints must be filed within 60 days of becoming aware of the alleged contravention or behaviour.
Are pay equity complaints confidential?
Yes, complaints related to pay equity will remain completely confidential.
Furthermore, an employer, bargaining agent or any other person acting on their behalf cannot penalize employees from exercising their rights under the Pay Equity Act.
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