Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Pay Equity in Ontario: The Case of a Non-Profit Seniors Service Organization

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Pay Equity in Ontario: The Case of a Non-Profit Seniors Service Organization

Article excerpt

In today's competitive business world, it is imperative to maintain a motivated workforce. In order to do so, organizations must ensure that employees are paid equitably and in a fair manner as perceived equity plays a vital role in employees' behaviour and performance (Greenberg 1987). This means equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value. The Ontario Pay Equity Act (R.S.O. 1990, c. P-7) was enacted to ensure that employees in Ontario are paid equally for doing work of equal value in order to redress gender discrimination.

It has been more than twenty years since the Ontario government enacted the pay-equity legislation, in 1988. Unlike most other pieces of pay-equity legislation that are merely complaints-based, the Ontario Pay Equity Act is proactive and covers all employers in the public and private sectors, for businesses with more than ten employees. It is proactive in that employers covered by the act are required to have a pay-equity plan even if no complaint has been made. Also, the Pay Equity Commission can initiate an audit even when there is no complaint. In contrast, most jurisdictions in Canada only initiate pay equity when there is a complaint. Due to its wide coverage and proactive nature, the act has been described by scholars and practitioners as one of the most comprehensive and progressive pay-equity policies in the world (Armstrong and Cornish 1997; Gunderson 1994; McDonald and Thornton 1998). Yet, after two decades of implementation, there are lingering questions: Has the act succeeded in achieving its aim to redress systemic gender wage discrimination for women in female-dominated job classes? How effective has this law been in closing the gender wage gap for work of equal value, especially for workers in community service organizations?

There is a growing body of literature on pay equity (Armstrong and Cornish 1997; Baker and Fortin 2004; Fortin and Huberman 2002; Gleason 1995; Gunderson 1994; Hart 2002; McDonald and Thornton 1998; Weiner and Gunderson 1990); however, there appears to be limited research on the impact of the Pay Equity Act on the broader public sector, especially on nonprofit community-based social service organizations. Thus, the key objective of this article is to provide more in-depth details on the issues that the Ontario Pay Equity Act has generated within the non-profit community service sector, through a case study of Etobicoke Services for Seniors (ESS).

The ESS was selected as a case study because it is representative of the hundreds of community support service agencies in Ontario that have been struggling to fulfil their pay-equity obligations for the past twenty years or so. Like many of these agencies, ESS relies on government funding in order to provide services. Without government funding, ESS will not be able to fulfil its pay-equity obligation. This case study will shed some light on the effectiveness of the Pay Equity Act in closing the wage gap between male and female workers doing work of comparable value in the broader public sector.

In the first section of this article, we review the arguments on the need for pay equity and give a historical overview of the Ontario Pay Equity Act. The case study is then presented. Finally, we discuss the impact of the Pay Equity Act in a non-profit senior service context.

A closer look at the Ontario Pay Equity Act

An overview: the need for pay equity, brief history and legal challenges

According to Statistics Canada (see http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/060615/dq060615c-eng.htm), women have increased their participation in the labour market at a substantial rate over the past twenty-five years. However, falling birth rates combined with the fact that baby boomers are nearing the end of their careers will lead to a shrinking workforce (Hughes 2003). Employers will find themselves in a war for talent. The ability to maintain quality employees, particularly in today's competitive hiring environment, will be critical (Messmer 2000; Ployhart 2006). …

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