"We are asking you to make it a priority to ensure that no woman is left behind and that the transparency act actually forces our employers to address the gap that exists. We agree that it has been discriminatory, and again, the group of people who are most affected are the people who can’t fight for themselves and can’t speak for themselves."
– Carol Mundley, Chair of the Provincial Women's Committee, deputation before the Standing Committee on Social Policy
Through the collective efforts of the Equal Pay Coalition, labour, and community groups, the government will be making some significant amendments to Bill 3 –the Pay Transparency Act. The Bill went through the final legislative hurdles yesterday and was passed. We can all count the legislation as a real win!
Amendments to the Bill were a result of direct efforts to mobilize around Ontario's pay transparency legislation. Labour and community activists across the province made their voices heard at the many actions on Equal Pay Day, through sending letters to the Premier and Ministry of Labour, through promoting the campaign #ShowUsTheMoney, and by making a strong case at the Standing Committee hearings on Bill 3. One of those strong cases was made by the Provincial Women's Committee who recently made a deputation before the Standing Committee on Social Policy.
The Pay Transparency Act is fundamental human rights legislation that is designed to ensure that employees know what the pay structure is in their workplaces, so that they can actually enforce their rights to equal pay. Especially in non-unionized workplaces, women can be disciplined and terminated for asking about pay or for sharing their own pay information, which makes it literally impossible to enforce your rights to equal pay. The Pay Transparency Act will ensure that employers disclose information about pay so that it will be possible to track where men and women are paid differently for doing the same job, where women are being concentrated in precarious work, concentrated in lower positions, or paid less.
Here is an overview of the key changes to the Pay Transparency Act:
- Rather than phasing in the law very slowly through regulations that would make it applicable to Ontario public service, employers with 500+ employees, employers with 250+ employees over the next five plus years, the bill was amended so that the law will apply immediately to all employers (public and private sectors) with 100+ employees. Beyond this, there is the power to make regulations so the law can be extended further to smaller employers
- The original bill would become effective on 1 January 2019 but it gave no timelines for action. Thanks to our collective efforts, the bill was amended to set out explicit deadlines for filing including that pay transparency reports must be filed annually; reports will be based on the calendar year; and employers with 250+ employees must file their first pay transparency report on 15 May 2020
- Employers with 100+ employees must file their first pay transparency report on 15 May 2021; This time frame has an valid logic. If the law becomes effective on 1 January 2019, the 2019 calendar year will be the first year in which employers have to be tracking the information for reporting purposes. Over that year, the government will develop the IT infrastructure for publishing the data and train compliance officers so that the system is fully operational in time for the first reports which will be filed 15 May 2020.
- While Bill 3 originally allowed the government to make regulations to exempt employers from the law (as has happened to devastating effect with Employment Standards), the bill was amended to eliminate the power to make exemptions.
- Bill 3 also originally gave the Minister of Labour discretion about whether pay transparency reports would be made public, but the bill was amended so that the publication of pay transparency reports is mandatory.
- There was originally no purpose clause contained in Bill 3 – something that is very important when interpreting how the law is to be applied. Thanks to our efforts, the bill was amended to include a very strong purpose clause:
Purposes of the Act
3.1 The purposes of this Act are,
(a) to promote gender equality and equal opportunity in employment and in the workplace, including equality of compensation between women and men, through increased transparency of pay and workforce composition;
(b) to increase disclosure of inequities related to employment and compensation that women and other Ontarians may experience in the workplace to encourage the removal of such inequities to promote the full and equal participation of women and other groups in the workplace;
(c) to promote, amongst employers, the elimination of gender and other biases in hiring, promotion, employment status and pay practices;
(d) to support open dialogue and workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning employment, compensation and equal opportunity; and
(e) to support economic growth through the advancement of equity in employment and in the workplace for women and other groups.