The BC NDP government has introduced two changes to employment law in this session of the legislature. We have a new statutory holiday and pay transparency obligations coming our way. We are also following a private member’s bill on the subject of non-disclosure agreements.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Act
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is now a holiday in BC under the BC Employment Standards Act. It will occur on September 30 each year. This change aligns BC with the federal government enactment of this statutory holiday under the Canada Labour Code in 2021.
The Pay Transparency Act
The BC government has also introduced a bill that will bring pay transparency legislation to BC. The stated goal of this new legislation is to help close the gender pay gap, including the gender gap for Indigenous, racialized and newcomer women.
Under this new law, provincially regulated employers in BC will be required to include the salary or wage, or the salary or wage range, in job advertisements and will be prohibited from asking prospective employees about compensation history unless that information is public. Also, an employer will no longer be able to enforce a requirement that employees not disclose their compensation to other employees or job applicants.
These obligations will come into effect as of November 1, 2023, assuming the bill is passed into law. It is scheduled for second reading later in March 2023.
There will also be a reporting requirement on employers that will be introduced in stages depending on employee complement size. The public service and larger Crown corporations will need to report as of November 1, 2023. Private sector and other employers will need to report as follows:
- 1 November 1, 2024 – 1,000 employees or more.
- 2 November 1, 2025 – 300 employees or more.
- 3 November 1, 2026 – 50 employees or more (or a lower number if prescribed).
The reporting requirements are not set out in the bill but will be issued through regulation in the fall. The government has indicated, though, that the gender reporting requirements will go beyond the gender binary, which BC says will be a first for pay transparency legislation in Canada.
It is not clear from the bill whether these employee thresholds are based on the number of employees in BC or include employees outside BC. It is also not clear whether the reporting requirements will be limited to BC data or include data from outside BC, although we expect that the reporting requirement will be limited to BC data due to constitutional jurisdiction reasons.
There is currently some form of pay transparency legislation in three other provinces and federally, although the obligation in Quebec and under federal law is only a reporting requirement.
Non-Disclosure Agreements Act
Finally and also with a stated goal of transparency, Green Party leader, Sonia Furstenau, has introduced a bill in the legislature that would restrict the use of NDAs related to allegations of discrimination and harassment. Currently, there are no restrictions on employers asking complainants to agree, as part of a settlement, not to disclose information related to their allegations. This bill would restrict this right by allowing time to access legal advice, allowing complainants to waive their agreement later, and putting time limits on NDAs. Private members’ bills seldom get enacted, but we will follow it to see if the government backs it.