April 18, 2018
Standing Committee on Social Policy
Room 165, Main Legislative Building
Toronto, ON, M7A 1A5
Dear Members of the Standing Committee on Social Policy:
Re: Strengthening Bill 3 (“Pay Transparency Act”) to protect human rights
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on Bill 3, An Act respecting transparency of pay in employment (the Bill). The OHRC is encouraged by the Bill’s potential to narrow the persistent gender pay gap and other employment discrimination. To be most effective, the draft legislation requires amendments as outlined below.
In our strategic plan, the OHRC has committed to addressing systemic discrimination that causes and sustains poverty. Discrimination in pay is a human rights issue. Women have a fundamental right to be free from sex discrimination in the workplace, and that includes in relation to compensation. Discrimination in pay is fundamentally about persistent systemic discrimination against women. In this context, pay transparency is an important tool to buttress existing human rights laws because it promotes accountability.
The gender wage gap persists despite international human rights laws protecting against discrimination, Human Rights Code (“Code”) protections, pay equity legislation, and labour laws. There are even greater wage disparities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, newcomers and racialized women, and women with disabilities. The government’s renewed effort to address the systemic and lifelong wage inequity that women face should be seen as an integral part of the government’s commitment to poverty reduction.
We are pleased that the draft legislation requires all employers to publish pay rates or scales in job ads, prohibit reprisal against employees for discussing pay, and prohibit employers from inquiring into job applicants’ previous compensation. These provisions would help limit both intentional and unconscious wage related discrimination in employment. The OHRC also supports data collection requirements for prescribed employers. If properly implemented, these requirements have the potential to uncover long-standing disparities, and enable employers, employees, and government to take steps to address them.
The OHRC recommends the following to strengthen the proposed legislation:
- Reference relevant human rights laws in the preamble and a purpose clause
The legislation should draw a clear connection to rights set out in the Code, Pay Equity Act, and Employment Standards Act, and relevant international human rights laws (i.e. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women).
- Broaden the legislation’s application to employers with more than 10 employees
All employees, regardless of the size of their employer, have a right to non-discrimination, including equal pay, in employment. In Ontario, small businesses (100 or fewer employees) employ 28% of workers. A large percentage of Ontario workers work in companies of 250 or fewer employees.
- Include strong compliance measures, including penalties
- Protect personal data to prevent discrimination and harassment
Data must be properly protected and anonymized to minimize the possibility of identification of particular employees who could face risk of targeted discrimination or harassment.
In addition to the OHRC’s recommendations, we encourage the Committee to seriously consider the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition’s detailed recommendations.
The Pay Transparency Act has the potential to be a significant step forward in reducing workplace discrimination. The OHRC looks forward to amended legislation to ensure that it meets this potential.
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Copy: Hon. Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour
Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
Emanuela Heyninck, Pay Equity Commissioner