Ontario committee releases final report on pay equity

Twenty recommendations proposed to close the gender wage gap

Today, the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee released its final report and recommendations with respect to closing Ontario’s gender wage gap.

In 2014, Ontario’s premier tasked the Minister of Labour with collaborating with the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues to develop a strategy to close the gender wage gap.  Accordingly, the committee was appointed in April 2015, and is comprised of two volunteer external members, an Executive Lead from the Ministry of Labour, and the Pay Equity Commissioner.

In addition to retaining a consulting firm to assess how closing the gap would impact Ontario’s economy, the committee also attended 14 public consultation sessions across the province, solicited comments from members of the public and special interest groups, and initiated an online survey.  A Consultation Summary was released in April 2016 and summarizes what the committee heard and learned.

The  committee asked other ministers to provide their input, and considered relevant academic and inter-jurisdictional research as well.

In its lengthy and comprehensive report, the committee considered the causes of the gender wage gap, including the effects of gender stereotyping, the devaluation of women’s work, barriers to entry into male-dominated fields, and disproportionate unpaid caregiving responsibilities for women.

The report also reveals that, while Ontario’s gender wage gap has declined, it has recently plateaued.  In fact, between 2014 and 2015, the gap actually increased.  According to recent Statistics Canada data, Ontario’s wage gap is 14 per cent when comparing average hourly wages, and widens to 29 per cent when average annual earnings for all earners (including seasonal and part-time workers) are considered.

Finally, the committee provided 20 recommendations to the minister to close the wage gap, grouped under the following five main goals:

  • Investing in child and elder care, and the development of a parental shared leave policy to help “share the care”
  • Simplifying pay equity laws
  • Improving workplace practices, including greater pay transparency, gender workplace analysis, and an increase in the number of women on boards
  • Challenging gendered stereotypes and raising social awareness
  • Encouraging the government to intervene by performing gender-based analysis and helping Ontarians access their rights under anti-discrimination legislation.

Dubbed by the committee as a “call to action,” the report emphasizes that, though various levels of government will be responsible for driving many of the recommendations, employers also play a key role in closing the wage gap within their own organizations by correcting any barriers to equality, creating safe and respectful workplaces, and showing leadership in promoting pay transparency.

Kristen Pennington is an employment and human rights lawyer at Grosman, Grosman & Gale LLP in Toronto. She is passionate about the advancement of women and making workplaces safer and free from discrimination. Follow her on Twitter @klpennington or at www.grosman.com.

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