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Pay equity for men and women

Though pay equity has been long fought for by varying groups, we are not there quite yet.

That doesn’t mean that great strides haven’t been made in Canada: pay equity has been entrenched in law by the federal government and some provinces.

While it’s true that not all province and territories have legislation regarding pay equity, all have human rights codes which forbid discrimination in employment, which includes pay gaps.

Federal pay equity legislation

Canada ratified the International Labour Organization convention in 1977, which recognizes "equal pay for work of equal value" as a fundamental human right.

Pay equity legislation at the federal level is found in s. 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and applies to federally regulated employees, whether in the public or private sector. It sets out that that men and women working in the same organization and performing work of equal value are to be free of discrimination.

The federal government also established a Pay Equity Task Force in 2000 to research and make recommendations for a workable and effective pay equity law.

The recommendations reflected what has already been legislated in many of the six provinces that have their own pay equity legislation: mainly that there has to be recognition that pay equity is a fundamental human right.

Provincial pay equity legislation

To date, there are only six provinces, as of 2016, that have pay equity legislation: Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Though there is no pay equity legislation in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, these provinces have enacted some policies for pay equity with certain public sector employers.

The only province that doesn’t yet seem to have seemed to passed legislation or a policy framework is Alberta, although that will likely change in the near future.

Examples of what provincial pay equity legislations do:


Enacted in 1996, the Pay Equity Act of Quebec requires that public and private employers act pro-actively to make sure that equal pay is maintained at the workplace.

The only drawback of Quebec’s legislation is that if the employer has less than 10 employees the act doesn’t apply. There are also different requirements for employers depending how many people they employ.

Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia Pay Equities Act holds that parties to an employment relationship have to bargain with each other in good faith in order to attain pay equity.

The Pay Equity Commission helps employees deal with disputes or forces employers to comply with pay equity guidelines.

All public sector employers are covered by the legislation.

Prince Edward Island

PEI established the Pay Equity Bureau as well as appointed a Commissioner of Pay Equity.

The organizations that are covered under the statute are: Crown corporations, universities and colleges, nursing homes, and other agencies to be identified in the regulations.

If you are having pay equity issues with your employer, you should consult a lawyer.

Read more:

Introduction to Pay Equity Government of Canada

The Gender Pay Gap Across Canada