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Equal pay legislation introduced to B.C. legislature

Bill introduced by B.C. Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux would seek to eliminate the 31 cent pay gap between men and women in Canada

Women rally for equal pay in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2017.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Women rally for equal pay in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2017.

A B.C. MLA has introduced a bill intended to start a conversation about how we could achieve pay equity.

“Women make up to 60 per cent of the workforce,” said Stephanie Cadieux, B.C. Liberal MLA for Surrey South. “Yet there’s still a wage gap between men and women.”

Cadieux introduced the Equal Pay Certification Act in the B.C. Legislature on Monday. In Canada, women are paid 31 per cent less than men while indigenous women get paid 57 per cent less.

While details of the potential bill have not been released, the legislation Cadieux proposed would require companies to rectify their wage gaps and report on their progress. 

Ontario introduced a similar bill on Tuesday aimed at also closing the wage gap. It pledges to target publicly-traded employers with more than 500 employees, and would be later extended to employers with 250 employees or less.

Cadieux said the original idea came from a new Icelandic law that requires employers of 25 employees or more to prove they give equal pay regardless of gender.

Cadieux says if the bill passes, it would encourage companies in the province to come up with ways to level the playing field for women.

“The reality is always that there are companies that are leading, and certainly in B.C. equal pay for equal work is already enshrined within the Human Rights Code,” she said. “But the challenge is that you can only seek damages, prosecute or rectify a situation where someone isn't being paid equally, once it's been detected and brought forward through a process.”

Zahra Jimale, director of law reform at West Coast LEAF, said the bill is long overdue.

“We’ve been talking about pay equity in Canada and equal pay for work of equal value since the 1950s,” she said.

Jimale says while her organization fully supports any proactive pay equity legislation, she would like the government to address safety issues for women as well.

She says Canada currently has a complaint-based model that does not guarantee the equal right of equal pay for work of equal value, and as the wage gap continues to be a significant barrier for economic security to women of all ages, it can also affect other areas of their lives. 

“Because the minimum wage and wage gap disproportionately affects women economically, it can leave them in situations where they are financially not secure. Then they face barriers in terms of leaving abusive relationships,” Jimale said.

Cadieux said the bill was designed to be fairly flexible to provide an opportunity for the business community and the employers of B.C. to talk.

“I think here in B.C. our legislature has the most women elected anywhere in the country. And I think there's no better place than here to start the conversation,” Cadieux said.

If the bill passes, companies will have a year to review their pay structures from the day the bill is passed, to send it back for the government to review.

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