Calls for Canada to introduce pay transparency laws to help close gender wage gap

By Shauna Hunt and Meredith Bond

Wage gaps in Canada have narrowed over the decades, but there is still a long way to go. Down south, several U.S. states have introduced pay transparency laws, with New York City the latest and some experts believe governments should be paying close attention to their impact.

Women working full-time in Canada are making about $89 cents to every dollar a man makes, but Sarah Kaplan, professor of Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto, tells CityNews the gaps are much wider when you start to break down demographics.

“There are big differences when you start to look at Black women, Latino women and people with disabilities. Those gaps are larger than the gaps that we say of 88 cents,” said Kaplan.

As of 2016, in Canada, Indigenous women working full-time earn $65 cents on the dollar to non-Indigenous men, and newcomer women earn $71 cents to the dollar of non-newcomer men, according to Statistics Canada.

Women that identify as a person of colour make just 59.5 per cent on average compared to Canadian men who do not identify as a person of colour.

As of last week, every employer in New York is now required to post the minimum and maximum salary for a particular role when listed on internal job boards and external sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed.

“This gives people the ability to know if they give me a job offer, did they offer me the lowest on the range or the highest on the range? So it gives you a lot more information to be able to negotiate,” explained Kaplan.

California’s pay transparency law takes it a step further — by requiring employers with more than 100 workers to also show their median gender and racial pay gaps – a first in the U.S.

Munzeena Sheik, is a lawyer who specializes in labour and human rights litigation and tells CityNews Canada does have great legislation to help employees battle workplace discrimination, but the issues are complex.

“I’m dealing with a complaint right now, for instance, where my female client has a complaint with a pay equity issue and has also layered with that a reprisal complaint, so saying, ‘As soon as I raised the pay equity issues, I received my raise but received reprisal in the workplace and was ultimately pushed out,'” Sheikh explained.

She said currently, Canada’s human rights legislation when dealing with pay equity issues is actually quite robust.

“It’s not difficult at all to file a human rights complaint and take it all the way to a hearing.”

However, Sheikh said she thinks this legislation would be very helpful for employees and reduce that litigation.

“It would take out the legwork in terms of them having to establish whether or not they’re being paid fairly in comparison to their peers.”

“I do think this is something that’s going to be helpful across the board. Although it might take that there might be some ebbs and flows in terms of how long it actually takes to integrate it,” Sheikh added.

In 2021, Ottawa’s Pay Equity Act, which requires federally regulated employers to identify and correct pay disparities, came into play, but that only accounts for about six per cent percent of the workforce.

Several provinces have their own legislation, although not as hard-hitting as some of the laws south of the border.

Kaplan said while there was an improvement in the gender pay gap in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, countries have hit a stalemate since then and more needs to be done.

“Part of that is just because we’d have these gender notions of who should do care work at home, and therefore, the people who are doing care work can’t afford to work the same hours are the kinds of jobs that are so demanding that actually pay the most,” explained Kaplan.

When asked what effect the legislation introduced in New York would have if implemented here in Canada, Kaplan said, “Will this be the magic wand to wave and close the wage gap? No. Will this be a helpful step, along with other steps that need to be taken? Yes, I think it is.”

“We are not going to close the wage gap until we close the care gap. Until there is equal sharing at home, we will never close the wage gap,” she added.

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