Equal Pay For Equal Work

If you work in the province of Ontario and the company falls under its jurisdiction, you may be covered under the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The Act sets minimum standards that an employer is required to follow. If it doesn’t, you can file a claim with the Ministry of Labour. If you are still working for the company, you can file a claim with a request that your name should not be disclosed. The Act protects you if you are trying to exercise your rights.
 
If your employment relationship is governed by the collective agreement and you are a member of the trade union, the provisions of this Act do not apply to you. It is assumed that the collective agreement would provide greater benefits than the minimum standards of the Act. If there are issues that need to be resolved, it is expected that the union should be able to resolve them under the collective agreement.
 
Under the Pay Equity Act, the employers are required to pay same wages to both men and women for performing jobs that may be different but are of equal value. However, under the Act, the requirement to pay same wages to both men and women is restricted to the same job or a job, which is practically the same and performed at the same establishment and is defined specifically. In other words, Pay Equity Act compares two jobs which may be different but are of equal value to the employer, while the Act requires that the jobs should be same or for practical purposes same and that they be performed at the same establishment. That is, the work is similar enough that it could reasonably be considered to fall within the same job classification and requires the same skill, effort and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions in the same establishment. The jobs do not have to be identical in every respect, nor do they have to be interchangeable.
 
Skill is defined as the degree or amount of knowledge required to do a job whether it is physical or mental, effort required too can be defined as physical or mental, and the responsibility may be measured by the nature of job obligations, the degree of accountability and the degree of authority exercised.
 
Similar working conditions include such things as exposure to the elements, health and safety hazards, workplace environment, hours of work and any other terms or conditions of employment.
 
The same establishment may be defined as either a single location where the business operates or if there are more than one location, these locations may be in the same municipality or if these locations are in different municipality, the employees must be able to transfer from one location to the other.
 
Following examples may provide better understanding of the requirements for “equal pay for equal work”:
 
Ranjit and Asha both work on a production line. Asha packs plastic spoons into small boxes, and Ranjit packs small boxes into bigger boxes. There is not very much different skills, effort and responsibility required in both jobs. The Act requires that both Ranjit and Asha be paid same pay.
 
An employer has two clothing stores in the same city, one sells women’s clothes and the staffs are women while the other sells men’s clothes and the staffs are men. Since the staffs in both stores sells clothes, the employees should receive the same wage rate at both stores.
 
In order to provide the same wage rate, the employer cannot reduce wages of the individual who is being paid more.
 
Exceptions
 
The employer can pay different wage rates under following conditions:
 
            .           A seniority system. The employer may pay higher wages to an employee who has seniority.
            .           A merit system. The employer may pay more money or bonus based on work performance
                        if it is determined objectively.
            .           A piecework system. The employer may pay on the basis of higher quality or quantity.
            .           Any system that is not based on the gender of an employee. 
 
There may come a time when you or the employer disagree with the officer’s decision, in that case, both parties have a right to appeal the officer’s decision to Ontario Labour Relations Board within 30 days. It does not cost you money to request an appeal but the employer may be required to pay money to the Ministry if it is found to be owing. The Ministry distributes the money according to the referee’s decisions. The Board’s decision is final and binding on both parties.
 
This information is provided for guidance and should not be considered as a legal advice.

This article is provided by Rajinder K. Batra, who is a retired Employment Standards Officer with the Ministry of Labour with 15 years experience in these matters.

If you have any questions regarding your employment, please contact the writer by e-mail at esaconsulting@hotmail.com

If you don’t have access to e-mail; you can fax your question at (905) 331-1805.

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