Pay Equity Office continues efforts to raise awareness of legislative requirements
By Claudine Kapel
Maintaining compliance with the Ontario Pay Equity Act may not be top of mind with every employer operating in the province – but the Pay Equity Office (PEO) wants it to be.
The PEO observes in its recently posted annual report for 2010 – 2011 that it has been taking a number of steps to ensure employers and employees alike are aware of the legislation.
Although the information in the report is dated, it does offer some interesting insights into the workings of the Pay Equity Office.
Citing the most recent Statistics Canada data, the PEO notes the gender wage gap in Ontario for full-time, full-year employment is 28 per cent. Adds the PEO: “Studies show that as much as a quarter or a third of this gap in salaries between men and women can be attributed to discrimination in the workplace.”
To that end, perhaps one of the most significant initiatives recently undertaken by the Pay Equity Office has been its Wage Gap Program. Launched in January 2011, the PEO says the program is intended to “solicit information about current compensation levels for the non-unionized employees of private sector organizations across Ontario to determine if gender wage gaps persist in workplaces.”
The Wage Gap Program was initially piloted with employers having 500 or more employees in Ontario, but the PEO notes the program “will be extended to include all Ontario workplaces.”
The PEO has been taking other approaches as well to get the word out, such as partnering with organizations from various jurisdictions to share facilities and forums. These include the Ministry of Revenue, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Service Ontario and Industry Canada.
As well, the PEO notes that it “continues to focus on reaching out to young women before they enter the workforce, to educate them on the wage gap and the role of pay equity in closing that gap.”
The PEO’s focus on education and communication hasn’t gone unnoticed. In its annual report, the PEO notes there was “an overall increase in the number of complaint files” with 162 new complaint files being opened in 2010 – 2011.
It observes in its annual report that “as a result of the PEO’s involvement, whether in complaint or in monitoring activity, adjustments to women’s compensation in female-dominated jobs continue to be made.”
So what does this mean to your organization? As a starting point, it’s important to understand whether the organization is covered by the Pay Equity Act.
Smaller employers, for example, sometimes don’t realize the legislation applies to them. But the Pay Equity Act covers employers that aren’t federally regulated and have 10 or more employees in Ontario.
If you’re covered by the act, but aren’t sure what that means, you may want to check out the information on the Pay Equity Office’s website. There’s a wealth of material there on what it takes to achieve and maintain compliance.
There are probably quite a few organizations out there that complied with the legislation when it was first introduced, but haven’t checked in on where things stand today.
Since pay equity compliance needs to be maintained, undertaking periodic reviews of your compensation practices can help you identify and address potential issues before they become more serious.
Given the potentially significant cost and reputational implications of being found offside with pay equity requirements, the ounce of prevention may be easier to tackle than the pound of cure.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.