Bill 148: Equal Pay For Equal Work

As part of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, Ontario set new rules that mandate Equal Pay For Equal Work, becoming the first province in Canada to do so. This applied to employers and temporary help agencies in Ontario.

These labour laws impacted business owners with an increase to the amount of pay an employee must receive. As an employer, do you understand what your obligations are? Here are some important facts on Equal Pay For Equal Work, under Bill 148.

On November 21st, 2018, the Ontario Provincial Government passed Bill 47Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. This Bill repealed the changes to Equal Pay for Equal Work that had been introduced by Bill 148. Bill 47 came into force on January 1st, 2019.

Bill 148

When Bill 148 was in force, Equal Pay for Equal Work meant that all employees must be paid equal to those who perform the same work regardless of sex, employment and assigned employment status. The purpose was to ensure that employers were paying casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers equal to or greater than full-time or permanent workers, if:

  • They do substantially the same kind of work, for the same employer
  • Their work requires substantially the same skill, effort, and responsibility
  • They work under similar working conditions.

For temporary help agencies, Equal Pay for Equal Work meant that assignment workers must also receive equal pay for doing equal work. Therefore, all else equal, an assignment employee could not be paid less than what the agency’s client would pay their own employees.

What does “substantially the same” mean?

A common question that employers ask us is to define what “substantially the same” work means. This refers to work that is similar enough that it can be considered to fall within the same job classification. The jobs do not have to be identical in every respect, nor do they have to be interchangeable.

Exceptions to Equal Pay for Equal Work

There were some exceptions under these rules, where the difference in the rate of pay is based on:

  • A seniority or merit system.
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.

Other factors, such as sex or age, did not qualify as an exemption.

Employer Obligations: Requests for a Pay Review

If there was reason to believe that equal pay was not being provided for equal work, the law allowed your casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees to ask for a review of their pay rate. As an employer, this required you to provide either a pay adjustment or a written explanation in response.

Bill 47: Currently in Effect

Bill 47 repealed the above-mentioned employer obligations with respect to employment status/assignment employment status. An employer is no longer required to accommodate a request for a pay review or provide a written response.

The longstanding equal pay for equal work provisions on the basis of sex remain in force.

Employer questions?

If you have questions about how to apply Equal Pay For Equal Work to your business, including questions regarding which of the Bill 148 obligations were repealed by Bill 47, ask Employer Line. Call our employer helpline at 1-833-247-3650 to speak with our HR experts for free advice.