10/06/2016 11:24 EDT

Liberals To Push Pay Equity For Employees In Federally Regulated Sectors

The Trudeau government will bring in legislation in 2018 to compel all employers in federally regulated sectors to ensure pay equity.

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government will bring in legislation in 2018 to compel all employers in federally regulated sectors to ensure men and women get equal pay for work of equal value.

The legislation will take a "proactive'' approach to pay equity, focused on helping employers comply with the law rather than forcing employees to lodge complaints about discriminatory wages, Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said Wednesday.

Forcing workers to file complaints — and even go to court — to get equal pay has proved to be "burdensome, costly and unfair to workers,'' she said.

In effect, the Liberals are going to bring back an approach to pay equity that they initiated 12 years ago but which was shelved by Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

NDP MPs want to see it sooner

The legislation will apply to 874,000 workers and 10,800 employers, including federal public servants and employees of Crown corporations and federally regulated companies such as banks, airlines, telephone and cable companies and radio and television broadcasters.

Between now and 2018, the government intends to consult with employers to craft legislation that doesn't "unduly'' burden them, Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu said.

New Democrat MPs expressed disappointment and frustration that the government is telling women to wait another 18 months before they'll get pay equity.

"Enough is enough. Pay equity is a human right and Canadian women should not be made to wait any longer to see their rights implemented,'' said a joint statement from New Democrats Sheri Benson and Karine Trudel.

Status of Women minister Patty Hajdu (centre), said the government wants to make sure all sectors can comply to pay equity legislation. (Photo: CP)

But Hajdu argued that pay equity is "a complex process'' and it's important to take the time to get it right.

As someone who worked for a small, not-for-profit employer when Ontario introduced pay equity, Hajdu said: "I can tell you, it was incredibly costly, it was incredibly labour intensive and, in fact, we did not have the expertise within (to comply)."

"So, we want to make sure that employers from all different sectors have the capacity, have a tool that is actually usable and does not unduly burden them administratively.''

Canadians should receive equal pay when it is earned: Brison

Treasury Board president Scott Brison acknowledged pay equity will come with a cost to the federal government and to employers but he said the precise price tag will depend on the details of the eventual legislation.

"This regime will require employers to regularly review their compensation system, identify any gender-based disparities and take measures to address them,'' he said.

"Canadians deserve equal pay for work of equal value. They should receive it when it is earned, not years after through fighting in courts.''

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