British Columbia

B.C. pursuing pay transparency legislation in attempt to eliminate gender wage gap

B.C. is in the initial stages of bringing in pay transparency legislation to address the wage gap between men and women in the province, which, according to Statistics Canada, is historically one of the widest in Canada.

'B.C. is late to the party in Canada,' researcher says

B.C. is the latest province to look at introducing legislation intended to eliminate wage disparity between men and women. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

B.C. is in the initial stages of bringing in pay transparency legislation to address the wage gap between men and women in the province, which, according to Statistics Canada, is historically one of the widest in Canada.

The province has been criticized for not addressing the issue sooner.

in 2018, StatsCan found British Columbia women made 18.6 per cent less than men, the widest gender pay gap in the country. It is one of four provinces, along with Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, that doesn't have pay transparency or pay equity legislation.

"B.C. is late to the party in Canada, but it needs to move forward to bring it in line and create a more equitable foundation for certain women and others," said Katherine Scott, senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

Being behind on this type of legislation has its advantages, Scott said, in that the government can look to other provinces for guidance. 

Pay transparency laws require employers to report salary data, bonus pay and overtime for different demographics of workers. Pay equity policies take it a step further, requiring employers to make plans to close the gap. 

Last summer, the federal government introduced the Pay Equity Act, which ensures workers in federally regulated workplaces are paid equally for equal work.

Ontario brought in pay transparency legislation in 2019, requiring employers to include a salary range for publicly posted jobs and prohibiting employers from punishing employees for disclosing compensation.

Consultations are set to begin this spring between the provincial government and stakeholder groups, including Indigenous organizations, public and private sector employers, unions and employers that have established their own pay transparency policies.

One of those employers is UnBounce, a tech company based in Vancouver. 

Erika Finlay, social impact manager for UnBounce, says the company identified that it wasn't compensating employees equally about three years ago. 

"When we learned about that pay gap, there was absolutely no question we were going to take the action to close it," she said. 

The company asks employees to self identify themselves, such as gender, ability and caregiving status, to ensure they're paying people equally for equal work. 

Finlay said the most important thing the province can do as it moves forward with the legislation is take advice from businesses and non-profit organizations that are already doing this work. 

"It's together that we're going to make change, not individually," she said. "[Addressing] unequal pay is a way we can drive social change."

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