News in Brief

Ontario unveils self-audit tool for employers | Men earn significantly more than women: Survey | Report highlights trends in benefit plans

Ontario unveils self-audit tool for employers

TORONTO — The Ontario Ministry of Labour has developed a new online self-audit tool that employers can use to determine if they are complying with employment standards rules.

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said the online self-audits would replace cumbersome paper audits previously completed by employment standards officers.

The change would make it easier for employers to comply with the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and pay workers outstanding wages more quickly, she said.

“The digital self-audit tool gives job creators a simple, easy and convenient way to demonstrate they follow the rules.”

In the past, ESA inspections required employment standards officers to visit businesses during peak hours, question the employer, and audit paper records. Last year, the ministry carried out 2,348 paper audits of employers, said Scott.

With the new self-audit tool, she said the ministry will be able to send an employer a link to an online portal where the employer can enter payroll information, submit its audit results, and confirm that it is complying with the ESA.

The tool is a “win-win-win for workers, businesses, and government,” said Scott, adding that it will save employers time and money and get unpaid wages to workers more quickly and without them needing to file a claim.

In addition, she said online self-audits will help the government become more efficient and allow the ministry to focus its employment standards enforcement efforts on “real offenders.”

The ministry pilot tested the online self-audits in the Greater Toronto Area last summer, working with employers with fewer than 25 employees. Since then, it has rolled out the audits to employment standards officers across the province.

Men earn significantly more than women: Survey

TORONTO — When it comes to workplace compensation, men are still being paid more than women, according to a new survey.

The survey, by Leger Research for ADP Canada, found that Canadian men reported earning an average of $66,504 per year, which was 25.5 per cent more than the average of $49,721 that women said they earned.

The survey of 815 full-time and part-time Canadian workers is based on self-reported figures.

The difference between the sexes is even bigger — 32.8 per cent — when looking at additional compensation such as bonuses and profit sharing, where men reported annual earnings averaging $5,823, compared to $3,912 for women, the survey said.

Women also reported earning less than $30,000 at nearly twice the rate of their male counterparts (26 per cent versus 14).

The survey also found that men and women have different perceptions of their employer’s pay equity practices. While almost 80 per cent of men said they believe that men and women are compensated equally within their workplace, only 62 per cent of women said they think that is the case.

In addition, 45 per cent of all respondents said they would leave their current employer if they found out that a colleague of equal standing was being paid more based on gender.

While only 63 per cent of executives said men and women are equally compensated, less than one-third (31 per cent) indicated that pay equity was a priority within their organization.

“It’s alarming to see that in 2019 there remains an impactful difference in compensation for Canadian men and women,” said Sooky Lee, general manager, human resources outsourcing at ADP Canada.

“With women comprising nearly half of today’s workforce and thriving in roles and responsibilities that match their male peers, organizations — and executive teams — that do not make pay equity a corporate priority risk losing the ability to attract top talent.”

Report highlights trends in benefit plans

OTTAWA  Canadian employers are increasingly focusing their employee benefits plans on flexibility, mental health and virtual health care, a new report says.

The Benefits Benchmarking 2019 report, by the Conference Board of Canada, found that while traditional health-care plans remain the most common benefit, 66 per cent of Canadian employers surveyed offer their employees health-care spending accounts (HCSAs).

HCSAs provide employees with a pre-set amount of money each year to cover eligible health-care expenses that are not covered under provincial health insurance plans or by the employer’s regular benefits plan.

Employees submit claims for their expenses and are reimbursed for them up to the dollar amount offered under the HCSA.

“As Canadian employers look to appeal to a multi-generational workforce, flexibility and choice are the key watchwords for health and wellness benefits,” said Monica Haberl, senior research associate at the Conference Board.

“Supplementing fixed benefits plans with health care spending accounts provides flexibility and choice to employees while keeping business costs predictable,” she said.

The report’s findings come from a survey of 217 organizations with more than 1.2 million employees across Canada.

About two-thirds of respondents said their organization had enhanced or introduced strategies to help employees with their mental health and wellness.

Psychological services were one of the most commonly offered benefits, the report said. It also noted that the services had an average annual maximum coverage of $800, up from $694 in 2015.

In addition, the survey found that 16 per cent of the organizations said they had increased their psychological health benefits since 2015.

It also found that employers are focusing more on preventative health measures and medicines, as well as investment in benefits technologies, such as tele or virtual health care and counselling, pharmacogenetics (how a person’s genes affect their response to drug therapies), and fitness and wellness apps.

While only six per cent of organizations currently cover medical cannabis (mostly through HCSAs), 48 per cent of respondents said they were considering covering it in the future.

Overall, benefits costs have remained relatively steady at 10 per cent of payroll or an average of $9,011 per full-time equivalent.

Despite this, the survey found that cost containment was the key priority for organizations, with 34 per cent ranking it as the top priority for their benefits strategy.

Manitoba moves 1-time assessment payments

WINNIPEG  Effective for 2019, the province’s Workers Compensation Board (WCB) has moved the premium payment due date for employers who make one payment per year from March 31 to May 30.

In a statement, the board said the change will give employers more time to make their payments after they submit their annual payroll reports at the end of February.

In Manitoba, employers with WCB accounts with coverage for workers can opt to pay their premiums once a year or in installments, ranging from two payments per year to 10, depending on the amount of their annual premiums.

B.C. mulls ESA changes

VICTORIA  —The British Columbia government says it is planning to make changes to its Employment Standards Act as early as this spring.

In late February, the government released a consultation paper on areas where it is considering making amendments and asked for public feedback by the end of March.

The areas include hours of work and overtime; unpaid leaves of absence; minimum age for employment; termination rules; wage recovery for employees; and Employment Standards Branch policies on compliance and enforcement.

The government said the consultations would build on a recent review of the act that the BC Law Institute conducted, as well as on recommendations for change that the Ministry of Labour has received from employers, workers, and groups such as the BC Employment Standards Coalition and the BC Federation of Labour.

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