Job Comparison in Relation to Pay Equity – Ontario’s Approach to Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value

16 Jun 2021

Canada has been a proud member of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) since its launch at the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Moreover, Canada will be honoured to take on the role of Chair of the EPIC Steering Committee beginning in January 2022. When EPIC approached the Ontario Pay Equity Office (PEO) to participate in a Peer-2-Peer learning opportunity for our Czech colleagues, it was an opportunity not to be missed.  During this workshop, we shared our experience and methodologies in ensuring equal pay for work of equal value as an approach to closing the gender wage gap.

The team that makes up the PEO is committed to redressing the systemic devaluation of work based on gender, and to enhancing women’s economic empowerment through education that elevates the equity conversation. This is why we were honoured to present Ontario’s experiences and to learn from our Czech colleagues.

The Czech Republic has already made admirable progress in redressing gender wage gap, much of it due to the tremendous efforts and dedicated work of the “22% Towards Equality Project”. It was inspiring to learn more about the project’s focus on awareness-raising and the elaboration of specific tools, such as a Payroll and Salary Calculator, and the adaptation of the Swiss Logib tool to meet the specific needs of the Czech Republic, and many more initiatives.

Ontario’s PEO was invited to share insights into the practical application of Ontario’s Pay Equity Act, and how experts from the field of equitable remuneration and compensation specialists can leverage it in their work. Ontario was the first government globally to pass a pay equity statute. In 1997, the Gender Wage Gap in both Canada and Ontario was 18%. In Ontario, it last measured at 12.2% in 2018, with the Canadian average at 13.3%. While there are multiple ways to measure the gap, every single province across Canada has decreased its gender wage gap by 6-13% since 1997. Progress is being made incrementally, not only a result of the Pay Equity Act as a legislative tool, but also a result of key stakeholders advocating for various tools and programs to address wage inequity, bias, and stereotypes that devalue women’s work.

The global pandemic has made targeting the gender gap an even more pressing matter, both now and for the foreseeable future. In her opening remarks, Ontario Pay Equity Commissioner, Kadie Ward, stressed the sense of urgency to closing the gender gap as the twin economic and health crises we are currently experiencing have the potential to roll back gender equality and the gains it has brought to workforces in Canada and globally. No country in the world will be able to bounce back from the economic recession without full and equitable women’s economic inclusion.

PEO Senior Review Officer, Beth Collins Kelly, led a technical workshop on the “how” of pay equity analysis, including gender-neutral methods for quantifying the relative value of various job classes within an organization through a gender-neutral lens. How can a company say that a janitor (stereotypical male job) provides more value than a secretary (stereotypical female job) and pay the male janitor more than a female secretary? When we look at the factors of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions through methodologies like job-to-job comparison, or proportional value, we can quantify the value of what a “job class” brings to an organization and determine if there is systemic devaluation of a job because it is held by a woman. If there is, a Pay Equity Officer can issue an order to that employer to adjust the wages of the underpaid female jobs.

The PEO outlined the reasoning behind its approach and illustrations of key steps in the quantification process to a group of more than 30 professionals attending this tailor-made workshop. A stimulating and engaging Q&A session, moderated by the organizers, let the group dive even deeper into the technical aspects of quantifying the value of jobs in a gender-neutral manner. Together, we discussed ongoing monitoring of pay equity once achieved, how many women benefit each year from wage adjustments that result from the PEO’s investigations, the role of the PEO in supporting employers, and much more. As we indicated during the presentation, a number of additional useful tools and methods, including a Step by Step to Pay Equity guide, a case study and a sample pay equity plan, can be found at the Guides and E-tools section of the PEO web site.

EPIC is a unique and critically important organization that serves as a rich source for learning best practices and networking with your counterparts from other jurisdictions, as was perfectly demonstrated by this joint Ontario-Czech Republic event. EPIC members willingly and openly shared experiences and good practices to close the gap in their countries and organizations. Leveraging these expertise benefits both sides and contributes to redressing the gender wage gaps globally as well as locally. Mutual reinforcement, experience exchange and comprehensive support are at the very essence of the Equal Pay International Coalition, and the Ontario Pay Equity Office is committed to these values. The PEO team sincerely hopes that this workshop was useful to our colleagues and would encourage other jurisdictions to join with international partners through EPIC.