On Wednesday, February 3, 2016, the House of Commons adopted a motion forming a new Special Committee on Pay Equity (Comité spécial sur l’équité salariale in French) [the “Committee”]. The motion was passed with 224 votes in favour and 91 against.

The Committee’s mandate includes, but is not limited to, taking legislative action to address wage disparities between men and women in the Canadian work force. The Committee also will consider current provincial legislative regimes on pay equity, namely in Ontario and Québec, and may seek to implement the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force Report which urges the government to formally recognize pay equity as a fundamental human right protected by law. The Committee must report to the House of Commons by June 10th of this year.

What does this mean for federal employers? There is certainly a very real possibility that proactive federal pay equity legislation will be passed at some point in the next four years.  However, there is presently an opportunity for federally regulated employers to take a good look at what is and isn’t working in the provincial systems and provide input to the Committee to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.

We will continue to follow this evolving and important issue and inform employers of any legal implications it may have on them in the coming future.

Written with the assistance of Stéphane Erickson, articling student in Ottawa.