Canadian women earn 89 cents for every dollar men earn. Can new federal legislation reduce this gap?

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Gender advocates and labor experts say legislation that comes into effect later this summer is likely to help narrow the gender pay gap in some Canadian workplaces – although it is unclear whether these gains will spill over into the economy as a whole.

Ottawa announced on Wednesday that its Pay Equity Act will come into effect on August 31, about three years after the law was unveiled.

“I think it’s a start in the right direction, but I think we need to take this more discussion and regulation further… Foundation.

While Gunraj was generally positive about the legislation, she said its effects will be limited to a tiny fraction of working Canadians.

“It’s hard to say it’s going to have such a big impact on our entire job market,” she said.

Andrea Gunraj, vice president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said women’s wage gains have been moving at an “ice-cold pace” for too long. (Mango Studios)

The new legislation means employers in federally regulated industries with 10 or more employees will have three years to identify and correct wage disparities within their workforce – disparities that most often result in women earning less than men.

Women in the workforce in Canada earn about 89 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to government figures.

Women also suffered more severe and lasting economic losses than men during the pandemic, according to Statistics Canada and numerous reports.

About 1.3 million people, or 6% of Canadian workers, are employed in federally regulated industries and will be affected by the new legislation.

This includes industries such as banking, air transportation, railroads, and most crown corporations, among others.

How to define “work of equal value”

Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said her government’s new approach to pay equity will have a “transformative” effect on the persistent income gap facing women.

The regulations aim to address this problem by requiring employers to conduct comprehensive reviews of their workforce with the aim of offering employees “equal pay for work of equal value.”

In other words, employers cannot simply calibrate the wages of women and men in the exact same positions. Instead, they’ll need to identify all the roles in their organizations that offer similar levels of value, and then raise wages when jobs turn out to be underpaid.

Employers will need to consider the “skills, efforts, responsibilities and working conditions of these jobs,” says The legislation.

“We are seeing women in care, in service occupations, and those occupations have been mostly undervalued,” Tassi told CBC News.

The government will keep an eye on the implementation of the legislation and come back with the necessary “adjustments”, said Labor Minister Filomena Tassi. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

Pay Equity Commissioner of Canada Karen Jensen will be able to impose fines of $ 30,000 on employers with up to 99 employees who do not comply, and $ 50,000 on those with a larger workforce.

The legislation leaves “a large margin of interpretation”

But the value of individual jobs is subject to interpretation, which could complicate workforce reviews, warns Jordan Kirkness, labor and employment lawyer at Baker McKenzie.

He said the federal government has provided strong guidance to employers to conduct these reviews, although he expects disputes over the law to be inevitable.

“Complying with the law is not just a matter of following simple instructions. There is a lot of room for interpretation,” Kirkness said.

Still, he described the regulations as a positive step and said they are more comprehensive than pay equity laws already in place in some provinces.

It is also unclear whether the legislation will have an effect on employees in non-federally regulated workplaces.

Tassi said the government is showing “strong leadership” on pay equity, but organizations outside of federal jurisdiction will not be required to follow the new rules.

Gunraj said this could happen in some cases, especially if workers and union groups push for changes.

“It’s a good indication of what’s going to happen in general. And maybe it’s a way for people who are in unionized sectors to say, ‘Hey, this is happening here, and if we were to do this. also in our sector? “” she said.

NDP spokesperson for women and gender, Lindsay Mathyssen, said she was happy to see the law come into effect – although she noted that it was “far too late” to come into effect. address economic disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.

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