In Canada, most federally regulated employers in the private and public spheres are subject to the Employment Equity Act, or in French, la Loi sur l’équité en matière d’emploi (the “Act”). First enacted in 1986, the Act’s objective is to ensure that federally regulated employers proactively engage in equitable practices that reduce barriers and counter disadvantages in employment with respect to the Act’s four designated groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Under this regime, employers are subject to reporting requirements regarding the fair and proportional representation of the four designated groups in their workforce, and the steps taken in the furtherance thereof. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has the mandate to carry out audits and ensure that employers subject to the Act comply with its various requirements.

In its 2018 Budget Plan, Equality and Growth: A Strong Middle Class, or in French, Égalité et croissance : une classe moyenne forte, the Government of Canada, as part of its greater initiative to promote pay transparency, announced that it would be “converting existing pay information filed by federally regulated employers under the Employment Equity Act into more user-friendly online content with specific attention paid to making existing wage gaps more evident.” In so doing, the Government’s objective will be to highlight the work done by employers who engage in equitable practices that further the Act’s overall objective, while holding accountable employers whose wage gap persists in respect to the Act’s four statutorily defined designated groups. The Government has pledged three million dollars over five years to implement pay transparency.

The federal Budget Plan 2018 does not state if the Government’s pay transparency initiative will lead to any legislative amendments or regulatory changes in the employment equity context specifically. That said, federally regulated employers should consider if they are subject to and fully compliant with the Act, and be alive to the Government’s above-noted commitment to ensure greater accountability and transparency in employment equity moving forward.

We will keep you apprised of new developments as further information in this field is released.

Written with the assistance of Lucas Rivet-Crothers, articling student in Ottawa

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