We often hear about pay equity, but do we really know what it means? The principle of pay equity requires “equal pay for different but equivalent work”. Pay equity is a right for all workers in Quebec, whether they are union members or not. This right is governed by the Pay Equity Act and affects most employers and employees.
Equal pay for different, but equivalent work.
Equal pay for equal work.
Elimination of obstacles to employment for designated groups.
Pay equity in context
Sophie has just been hired as a cashier at the neighbourhood grocery store. During her lunch break she has a conversation with Alexander, the new produce clerk. He tells her that he saw the ad in the newspaper and applied because of the $15-an-hour wage. Sophie is surprised to learn that a clerk’s salary begins at $15 an hour, while a cashier earns $14 an hour. Neither job requires any qualifications, but she thinks that cashiers have more responsibility and that their job is more stressful. She contacts the CNESST, because she believes that cashiers are discriminated against in her workplace and do not receive a fair wage.
What is pay equity?
Pay equity is the right of employees occupying a typically female job to receive a salary equal to that of people in a typically male job of the same value in a company. This right is ensured by the Pay Equity Act.
What is a typically female job?
- A job often associated with women because of stereotypes.
- A job where at least 60% of the employees are women.
- A job that has historically tended to be performed mainly by women rather than men.
- A job held by the majority of women in a company.
Which companies are required to comply with the Pay Equity Act?
All public, private or non-profit companies that employ an average of 10 or more employees are required to redress differences in compensation due to systemic gender discrimination within the company itself.
Because the right to pay equity is a fundamental right, companies employing fewer than 10 employees are also concerned, since their employees are covered by Québec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
If you work for such a company, you can file a complaint through the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) who will then forward us your file.
Who is entitled to pay equity?
Every person occupying a typically female job. However, there are some exceptions: self-employed workers, trainees, and workers receiving a wage subsidy from Emploi-Québec.
Employers are obligated to:
- Compare typically female and male jobs within their company;
- Ensure that typically female jobs are compensated equally to typically male jobs of equal value;
- Adjust the salary of those employed in typically female jobs, if necessary;
- Post the results for a period of 60 days.
This obligation is valid as long as the company is alive, which means that you have a right to pay equity at all times.
Job assessments must highlight all the characteristics and requirements of typically female jobs to ensure that their importance is recognized. Some of these characteristics and requirements are often underestimated. During the job assessment process, the employer must consider the following factors:
- required qualifications;
- effort required;
- the conditions under which the work is performed.
Participation by workers
Once the results of the procedure have been posted, workers can participate. They are entitled to ask questions about and comment on the results. This enables them to understand the steps involved in the procedure and suggest changes.
Workers can also get involved in the pay equity committee if one has been established in the company. The committee must be comprised of representatives of both the employer and the workers.
To find out if the employer has complied with all the requirements, you can:
- view the results posted;
- address questions to the employer or the union, if any;
- contact the information service of the CNESST.
Workers can file an anonymous complaint if the employer has not implemented pay equity (non-implementation complaint) or does not appear to have completed the process correctly (non-compliance complaint). They can also file a complaint if the employer has acted in bad faith or in a discriminatory manner or has punished an employee for exercising their rights. The complaint can be filed online or by mail, using the mandated form.
Examples of situations that may lead to a complaint:
- The employer has not completed the job assessment process by the deadline provided for in the law or has not posted the results → non-implementation complaint.
- The employer used an assessment method that did not apply the assessment criteria correctly. As a result, typically female jobs were under-assessed compared to typically male jobs → non-compliance complaint.
- The employer states openly that it will make sure that no wage adjustment will be made for typically female jobs → prohibited conduct complaint.
- The employer suspends an employee who made comments when the results were posted → retaliatory measures complaint (reprisals).
This publication is the result of a collaboration with the CNESST, the organization entrusted by the Government of Quebec with the promotion of labour rights and obligations. It ensures that these rights and obligations are respected by Quebec workers and employers.
For more information about pay equity, contact the CNESST information service by calling 1 844 838-0808, option 4, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To book an appointment with a labour and employment lawyer at our Legal Information Clinic, you can leave us a message at (514) 866-9941, ext. 293 or you can complete this contact form.