NAWL Brief to the Pay Equity Task Force

Posted 2002-12-22 in Presentations to Government

In light of its domestic and international obligations, the Canadian government has a positive obligation to adopt legislation that will remedy both the systemic inequality of women in the workforce and the persistent wage discrimination experienced by women. Pay equity is a fundamental human right that must be enforced in all sectors of federal jurisdiction.

NAWL advocates for comprehensive and proactive stand-alone federal pay equity legislation. This legislation must provide for strong and accessible monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, including proactive deadlines, random inspections, interest awards, an independent and specialized commission, and accessibility for all women. NAWL also recommends that the federal legislation should authorize the participation of unions in the pay equity process, while at the same time making it clear that pay equity negotiations should be separate from collective bargaining. Finally, NAWL advocates that the legislation should include a requirement that the government fund pay equity wage adjustments in the federal public sector, as well as pay equity implementation bodies and educational efforts.


It is NAWL’s position that the federal government must replace the existing federal pay equity scheme with comprehensive and proactive pay equity legislation. The current complaint-based model is ineffective and inaccessible for the majority of women in Canada. Its ambiguous terminology, unspecified methodology and lack of enforcement mechanisms have resulted in extensive delays, unacceptably long waits for wage adjustments and, in many cases, a complete lack of alternatives for women with pay equity complaints. Accordingly, NAWL advocates that the federal government take steps toward remedying the situation by drafting clear and unambiguous proactive pay equity legislation.

To this end, NAWL urges that the new federal pay equity legislation incorporate several main points:

  1. Recognition that despite anti-discrimination legislation, women still face inequality in the labour market, occupational segregation and the systematic devaluation of their work.
  2. Recognition that racialized women face additional discrimination and confront a graver form of economic disadvantage than non-racialized women.
  3. Recognition that pay equity violations are due to systemic discrimination and, as such, systemic remedies are necessary. Pay equity legislation must utilize proactive regulatory mechanisms, not only complaint-based mechanisms.
  4. An affirmation of the fact that pay equity is a fundamental human right, protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights law.
  5. Recognition that pay equity is an essential mechanism for ensuring constitutional equality rights for women and other disadvantaged groups.
  6. Comprehensive and proactive pay equity provisions that require that all federally-regulated employers develop and implement a pay equity program.
  7. Comprehensive coverage of all federally-regulated workplaces that protects all workers, including part-time, casual, seasonal and contractual workers, guarantees enforcement despite contracting out or a subsequent change in ownership, and applies to the Federal Contractor’s Program.
  8. Effective methodology for job evaluations, job comparisons, wage adjustments and the timing of corrective payments.
  9. Strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, including proactive deadlines, random inspections and the authority to award interest.
  10. The participation of unions throughout the pay equity process and, in particular, the involvement of unions in negotiating and enforcing pay equity plans.
  11. Accessible procedures for non-unionized women, as well as part-time, casual, seasonal and contractual workers.
  12. Provisions for the continual disclosure of relevant pay equity information to both employees and their bargaining agents.
  13. The creation of a separate pay equity commission and a specialized tribunal that has institutional independence and impartiality.
  14. The development of a consulting and advocacy body that will enhance accessibility to pay equity by helping women – particularly non-unionized women – enforce their rights.
  15. An allocation of funding to finance pay equity wage adjustments in the federal public sector.
  16. Recognition that pay equity, once achieved, must be maintained.

It is NAWL’s hope that federal legislation that includes the above provisions will allow the pay equity process to move beyond the tangled mess of litigation in which the current legislation has become so mired to become an effective means of enforcing an established human right. Indeed, NAWL maintains that unambiguous comprehensive and proactive legislation will go a long way toward granting in substance to Canadian women the basic human right that international and domestic instruments have been promising for years: pay equity.

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