Federal laws require that women get pay equal to that of men for work of equal value within any federally-regulated employer of any size. The Government of Canada website defines pay equity between the genders as a “fundamental human right … known as equal pay for work of equal value.” The right is granted by the Canadian Human Rights Act and focuses on the undervaluation of jobs historically held by female employees.
There are about 12,000 federally-regulated employers held to this pay-equity standard, according to the federal government. The federal sector includes employers in industries like banking, shipping, transportation, communication, uranium, fisheries protection, grain elevators and mills and more. Also included are some First Nation employers and most Crown corporations, which are hybrid entities that are publicly owned, but with some private, commercial characteristics. Examples of Crown corporations include Canada Post, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or CATSA, and the BC Assessment Authority.
Prevention of wage discrimination based on gender for violation of federal pay equity standards is more complicated than simply requiring that women receive equal pay for equal work. Rather, a covered employer must evaluate all of its jobs based on four mandatory factors: skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. The most common method used to compare the values of jobs that may be different in description or classified at different levels is to assign points to each of the mandatory factors for each job, identify jobs equivalent in point value and determine if pay inequity exists between them.
Jobs traditionally held by women tend to be undervalued. This can be shown by assessing the four factors and comparing the results to those of jobs traditionally held by men for higher pay. Future posts will look more closely at job valuation in the context of pay equity.
The federal government provides voluminous documentation for covered employers to assist with pay-equity compliance. Employees in the federally-regulated sector who suspect that pay-equity violations are impacting their wages may consider potential legal remedies like a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Avoiding these proceedings is a valuable exercise in preventative medicine, and substantive equality, for employers.