Pay discrimination can be addressed by ensuring equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value.
One way to address internal wage gaps is to identify gender discrimination in pay practices. Discriminatory pay practices can be addressed in two ways: by ensuring equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value, which is also known as pay equity. Equal pay for equal work requires that women and men receive equal compensation for substantially the same job (e.g. two machine operators on the same line with the same qualifications); all provinces in Canada have some form of legislation that addresses equal pay for equal work under a complaint-based system.
On the other hand, pay equity compares the compensation of women’s jobs with men’s jobs (e.g. female-dominated human resource jobs vs. male-dominated mechanical jobs). In a pay equity exercise, classify jobs by gender, assess their value to the organization in a gender-neutral way, compare the wages of female jobs to the wages of male jobs found to be comparable in value, and adjust wages accordingly if the female job is found to be underpaid. Undertaking a pay equity exercise, regardless of whether it is required or not, can reveal other aspects of gender discrimination in workplace practices, such as in recruitment, hiring, and promotion.
Pay equity laws exist in several Canadian jurisdictions. Ontario and Quebec have specific pay equity legislation that applies to both public and private sector employers. The Canadian federal government has passed the Pay Equity Act (2018) that applies to the federal public services and to private sector employers that are federally regulated, as well as to organizations that do business with the federal government.3