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B.C.'s gender pay gap: Consultations to be held this spring to develop pay transparency legislation


The B.C. government has promised it will begin addressing the ongoing issue of wage disparity between men and women in the province.

Grace Lore, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, made the announcement in the legislature on International Women’s Day, and said consultations will begin this spring to help develop new “made in B.C.” pay transparency legislation.

“Transparency and accountability is a step to address the pay gap in B.C.,” she said. “A gap that is not just about gender, but is also racialized. It’s bigger for Indigenous women and girls, those living with disabilities, and newcomers.”

According to the government, B.C. is one of four provinces without either pay transparency or pay equity legislation, and has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the country, with women in the province making on average about 20 per cent less than men.

The province plans to undertake consultations with Indigenous groups, public and private-sector employers, business and union organizations, and employers who have already established pay transparency policies.

"We want to go to (the) community, we want to talk to businesses, we want to talk to the leaders who have been advocating for this," Lore said. "I know it’s an issue that has support and interest from all sides of the house. Fundamentally, we need to go to community to determine what the best system is."

Also on Tuesday, the Liberal opposition critic for gender equity, accessibility, inclusion and sport Stephanie Cadieux re-introduced a private members' bill calling for legislation that would require businesses of a prescribed size to report the pay gap between male and female employees performing the same jobs.

Cadieux said she has already brought the bill forward multiple times, which is modelled on existing legislation in the United Kingdom.

“This was the fifth time today, I believe,” she said. “The reality is one of the things that we just aren’t seeing any progress on in B.C. is pay equity. In B.C., the gender gap in pay is 18.6 per cent. That’s how much less women are paid than men for the same jobs, and so we need to do something.”

Cadieux said increasing transparency would encourage businesses to address the pay gap and provide support for female employees to negotiate equal wages.

In response to Lore’s announcement, which followed the re-introduction of Cadieux’s bill, Cadieux said it was a “good step,” and noted the government promised related legislation back in the 2020 provincial election campaign.

“I’m an eternal optimist, and so I want to be positive about this,” she said. “But the record of this government is to consult to death: a plan to make a plan to have a plan. And so, I am not overly optimistic that this timeline for legislation will be quick.”

So far, there is no specific timeline laid out for the consultations, or for the development of the legislation.


Julia Smith, assistant professor in the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, said the pandemic has actually stalled progress on closing the wage gap in Canada, and in some fields, has exacerbated the divide.

“For example in the health and social assistance sector, which is the sector that is dominated by women…, we’ve actually seen the wage gap increase,” she said. “So pre-COVID, it was around 13 per cent, and now it’s 15 per cent. So that’s really concerning when we’re seeing that the women on the front lines of the pandemic response are experiencing a greater gender pay gap.”

Smith said while it’s hard to isolate one specific factor that’s responsible for the reversal, she notes a lot of women in that sector left work during the initial part of the pandemic.

“About 94 per cent of people who left work during that lockdown period were women, and many of them left because of child-care responsibilities,” she said. “It took about 13 months for women to regain those lost jobs.”

Smith said there is also a “vicious cycle” relationship between women forced out of work during the pandemic and the gender pay gap.

“In households and in families, it makes sense for the person earning the least to give up work to take care of children or the elderly,” she said. “In most households and families, that person is most likely to be a woman. So women have been forced out of work by the need to take on increased caregiving at home, and that in turn has a negative impact on their ability to earn, and their wages.”

Smith said the planned provincial consultation is a “great first step” and added transparency legislation does tend to decrease pay gaps. However, she said it is just one piece of the puzzle, which should also include increased access to child care, specific training programs to get women back into high-paying fields such as information technology, and increasing wages in “feminized” sectors where more women are typically employed.

She added employers also have a responsibility.

“Employers can implement transparency in their wages right now. They can conduct a gender audit and see if they are paying people in a fair and equitable way,” she said. “They can look at strategies to reduce the barriers to women’s advancement in their workplace. They can challenge stereotypes that judge women who take time off of have to work from home.”

Smith said there is a lot employers can already do to address wage disparity in their workplace, and they have a chance to “get ahead of the ball” on the issue.

This is a developing story. More to come. Top Stories

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