Guide to Ontario’s Pay Equity Act

If you are a business in Ontario, there are regulations governing the fair and equitable payment of both genders within your business concerning the same performed activities. The average person and most small businesses in Ontario are used to simply taking this very important act for granted, either that it does exist or that it does not. It is still in effect and can negatively impact your business as outlined below.

The Pay Equity Act was instituted in 1990 and required all businesses to implement a Pay Equity policy for all employees within their business. Any new companies were required to implement fair and equitable payment practices at start up and continue the practice. All corporate acquisitions or mergers were subject to the buyer, purchaser or majority owner to take responsibility for the pay equity liabilities of the purchased or merged portion of the company. The only exception to the Act was small business under 10 employees and when more than 10 employees are reached, a Pay Equity policy is required. As can be seen, Pay Equity is a subject necessary to almost any business in Ontario.

Furthermore, after more than 20 years, the Act remains in place and the retroactive liability of the Act has been proven in court and through the Commissions active investigators. A 20 year or more liability of pay equity claims could lead to large and insurmountable sums if left to grow.  Pay Equity was an honour system implemented Act. Therefore your company was responsible for implementing a policy to show you are compliant with the Act. However, a company was not required to submit a policy to the Commission and therefore all record-keeping responsibility remains with the company. A pay equity investigation can take up a lot of time and resources, especially for small and medium sized companies that have not kept the required documents.

If you have not kept proper records or established a Pay Equity committee, it is never too late to start. Start by evaluating your current employment salary standards and gaining the necessary background information. Through a Pay Equity committee, with different genders and various backgrounds a proper plan can be put into place. After which, a simple maintenance schedule should be implemented.

By keeping proper records and maintaining an active program for Pay Equity, when an investigator calls on your company to provide the information necessary for their review, you will be prepared and may only need small adjustments instead of a large project that requires a large investment of time, thought and money to rectify the situation.