New Equal Pay Provisions under Ontario Employment Law

The law in Ontario regarding “equal pay for equal work” protections was recently changed, resulting in important implications for both employees and employers.
What’s the New Law?
As of April 1, 2018, employers must pay all employees who perform similar work equally, regardless of their sex or employment status, including whether they are full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal or temporary agency workers. The key requirements are that: (a) the work performed is substantially the same; (b) the work requires substantially the same skill, effort, and responsibility; and (c) the work is performed under similar working conditions.
However, there are some exceptions where employers will be allowed to provide less than equal pay to certain employees, but only if the difference in pay is due to:

  • a seniority system
  • a merit-based system;
  • a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production;
  • another objective factor other than sex or employment status; or
  • the employee is a student under 18 years of age and does not work more than 28 hours per week.

Wage Review
An employee who believes he/she is receiving unequal pay because of their sex and/or employment status will have the right request that their employer reviews their pay rate. If so, the employer may: (a) adjust the employee’s pay rate; or (b) provide the employee with a reason, in writing, justifying the pay difference based on one of the above-noted factors.
It is important to note that an employer (and temporary help agency, in the case of temporary workers) cannot punish an employee in any way for requesting a review of their rate of pay because they believe they are not receiving equal pay for equal work, or for asking other employees about their rates of pay to find out if an employer is providing equal pay for equal work. Similarly, an employee cannot be punished in any way for disclosing their own rate of pay to another employee for the purpose of determining or assisting that employee in determining whether they are receiving equal pay for equal work.
Given the scope of these changes, employers should carefully review their payroll records to ensure compliance with these new changes and, if necessary, consult with an employment lawyer to further discuss their options.