The goal of the Pay Equity Act is to correct salary differences due to gender discrimination. Companies with 10 employees or more must make sure there’s pay equity between jobs done by women and comparable jobs done by men.
Do you work for an organization that falls under federal law, like a bank, a telecommunications company or a marine shipping company? The federal Pay Equity Program applies to you instead.
Sometimes, the skills required to do jobs traditionally or mostly done by women are undervalued.
For example, an employer might think that fine motor skills, strong interpersonal skills or multitasking are “feminine” attributes, and not assets that should be compensated. The employer could end up paying a lower salary for jobs that require skills associated with women.
Gender discrimination like this is often hard to recognize and isn’t always done on purpose. The Pay Equity Act requires employers to eliminate this type of discrimination.
Difference between pay equality and pay equity
Pay equality means paying women and men the same salary for doing the same job.
Pay equity goes further than this. It means paying people for work traditionally or mostly done by women the same salary as people who do comparable work traditionally or mostly done by men, even if the job is different. For example, paralegal work is often done by women and could be comparable to the work of a computer technician, which is often done by men.
Employers covered by the law must do a pay equity exercise.
According to the law, here are the steps in the pay equity exercise:
- Determine whether each job category at the company is traditionally or mostly done by men or women.
- Consider all the characteristics of those jobs based on four factors: qualifications, responsibilities, effort and working conditions.
- Identify and compare the salaries of comparable jobs.
- Make adjustments for any differences in these salaries.
The employer must share the results with employees and give a report to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST or labour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board).
The CNESST must also make sure that employers follow the law. It provides information on its website, as well as documentation, training and assistance.
The CNESST also provides information and services for employees (French only) to help ensure their rights are respected and that their employer is following the law.
To learn more about employer responsibilities, read our article Employers: Make Pay Equity a Reality in Your Company.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.