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Pay Equity For Employees: A Matter of Fairness

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What is the P​ay Equity Act?

The Pay Equity Act  (the Act) requires employers to identify and correct gender discrimination that may be present in their pay practices and to adjust the wages of employees in female job classes so that they are at least equal to the wages of employees in male job classes when they are found to be comparable in value based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.

Why​​ is the Act necessary?

  • In Ontario, female workers receive, on average 28% less in wages than male workers, based on full–time, full year wages [2006 Statistics Canada]. Many factors affect the wage gap, including gender discrimination in the workplace.
  • The purpose of the Act is to redress gender discrimination in the compensation or pay of employees in female job classes.

Who is cove​​red by the Act?

  • The Act covers the male and female employees in female job classes of all public sector employers and of private sector employers with 10 or more employees in Ontario.
  • Full–time and part–time employees are covered, including employees who work on a seasonal basis. Students working during vacations, however, are not covered.
  • The Act does not cover employees who work in Ontario for the federal government or in an industry regulated by the federal government such as banks, airlines, post offices, and television and radio stations.

Is pay equit​y the same as ​equal pay for equal work?

No. Equal pay for equal work means that if a man and a woman are doing the same work, they must receive the same pay (this comes under the Emp​​​​loyment Standards Act). Pay equity compares jobs usually done ​​by women with different jobs usually done by men.

How c​​an different jobs have the same value?

Let's look at an example. In a workplace, the secretary job class may require different kinds and levels of physical effort and have very different types of working conditions than the custodian job class. There may also be different kinds and levels of responsibility, mental effort and skill for the two jobs classes. However, when these four factors are applied in a gender-neutral and consistent way to both job classes, the value of the secretary job class may be the same or higher than the custodian job class. In this case, the law requires that the secretary job class be paid at least the same as the custodian job class.

How are women's j​​obs undervalued?

When compensating employees, certain aspects of work typically done by women are not often recognized. For example, compensation practices of employers sometimes:

  • Overlook the manual skills needed by a word processing operator (female job class) but recognize and compensate the manual skills of a machinery repairman (male job class).
  • Do not value to physical effort of continuous lifting of groceries by a cashier (female job class) but do value the physical effort of lifting product by a stockperson (male job class).
  • Do not recognize the responsibility of caring for children by daycare workers (female job class) but do value the responsibility for looking after financial record-keeping by a bookkeeper (male job class).

How does an ​employer do pay equity?

Jobs are grouped into job classes. Job classes consist of jobs that have similar recruitment practices, similar duties and responsibilities and have the same compensation schedule. These job classes are identified as female, male or gender neutral.

Job information is then collected about female and male job classes. Each job class is valued using the four factors required by law - skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. Once all job classes are valued, female job classes are compared to male job classes and where the values are comparable, the job rate of the female job class must be at least equal to the job rate of the comparable male job class; if it is lower, the employer is required to adjust the job rate of the female job class.

How do I know if I am in a female or male j​​ob class?

  • A female job class is one in which at least 60% of the positions are held by women.
  • A male job class is one in which at least 70% of the positions are held by men. Other factors such as who did the job in the past and the gender stereotype associated with a job may also be considered.

If you are an employee in​​ a female job class, pay equity is your right.

  • Employers are required to provide you with information about pay equity in your workplace. If you are represented by a union, your Bargaining Agent may be able to provide you with pay equity information.
  • Employers cannot fire or punish you for inquiring about pay equity or exercising your right to pay equity.

W​hen does an employer have to do pay equity?

  • Employers are required to ensure that their compensation practices provide for pay equity on an ongoing basis. In a unionized setting, employers and unions are not allowed to enter enter into agreements that, if implemented, would result in a contravention of this requirement.
  • If you think that your employer has not achieved or ma​intained pay equity, you may complain to the Pay Equity Commission.

Will my emplo​​​yer know if I complain to the Commission?

  • The Employer is notified when the Commission commences the investigation. An employee may bring an anonymous application by appointing an agent to represent them.
  • The Commission may conduct an investigation of an employer's compensation practices without an application being made by an employee.
  • ​Employers are prohibited from penalizing employees in any way for making complaints or for seeking pay equity.

Where can I go for more information or help?

The Pay Equity Commission is here to help you. We can address your questions by email: or by telephone at 416-314-1896 or toll free at 1-800-387-8813. TTY: 416-212-3991 or 1-855-253-8333.

Requests for information are confidential.

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