The provinces of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and the federal jurisdiction have enacted pay equity legislation designed to remedy gender discrimination in respect of the pay received by men and women in the workplace. The legislation does not guarantee equal pay for equal work (i.e. paying men and women the same wage rate for the same work); rather, it ensures that employers are providing equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.
To achieve pay equity, an employer must conduct job evaluations that compare the skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions inherent in various jobs. The employer must then compare male- and female-dominated jobs that have similar job evaluations. If wage differentials exist between those jobs, the employer must implement measures to remedy this difference.
The Employment Equity Act applies to most federally regulated employers, including federally regulated private employers with 100 or more employees and members of the public service. This legislation requires employers to take positive steps to correct the under-representation of women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal persons and visible minorities in the workplace. To do so, employers are required to evaluate whether the aforementioned groups are under-represented and to then implement policies and practices that encourage the hiring, promotion, training, retention and accommodation of those individuals. It is akin to affirmative action, although that phrase is not used in the legislation.
The Federal Contractors Program requires provincially regulated companies with greater than 100 employees that seek to provide goods and services in excess of Can$200,000 to the federal government, to have an employment equity program in place.
In addition, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects against discrimination on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation and mental and physical disability by the Government of Canada, each provincial and territorial government, and government agencies. These protections allow an applicant to seek a remedy against a government or a government agency based on a discriminatory practice, in addition to any complaint that the individual could make pursuant to human rights legislation in the jurisdiction where services are provided.
At present, the province of Ontario is engaging in a consultation process concerning proposed amendments to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. The amendments would create an accessibility standard applicable to all businesses operating in Canada’s largest province. The standard would require employers to evaluate barriers faced by persons with disabilities in the workplace and to work to eliminate those barriers.