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In P.E.I., salaries must be included on public job postings and B.C. is hosting consultations to do the same. Experts say it could help close the gender gap.skynesher

Can you imagine a job market where you always know the salary range before you put your hat in the ring?

While salary transparency on job postings isn’t standard practice across Canada, some provinces have recently taken big steps toward making it mandatory: P.E.I. passed legislation this summer requiring salaries be included on all public job postings and B.C. is hosting consultations looking at implementing similar laws. (This comes on the heels of wage transparency measures enacted in 2021 requiring federally-regulated private sector employers to report salary data in a way that shows aggregated wage gap information.)

These moves are being applauded by workplace equity organizations, who say including salaries on job postings is a vital tool to attract young workers and narrow the gender pay gap in Canada.

Addressing historic labour shortages

According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, there were nearly one million vacant job positions across Canada in the second quarter of 2022, a jump of 42.3 per cent from the same time in 2021.

Trish Altass, MLA for the Green Party of P.E.I., who brought forward the legislation requiring companies to post salaries in the province, said her province is feeling the impact of an aging population and tight job market and introduced the law in part to help the province stand out.

“We are facing labour shortages in many areas,” she says. “Right now, we need to do everything we can to make sure our workplaces are the best places they can be for workers as we try to retain workers on P.E.I. and also to recruit skilled workers in all areas to come and work and build their lives here.”

Julie Cafley, executive director at Catalyst Canada, a global non-profit that helps to build workplaces that work for women, says including salaries on postings provides added value to a workforce that is in many cases re-examining the places they want to work.

“It is more likely to be younger people that don’t apply for a job where pay transparency is not offered because it doesn’t represent their values,” she says.

Dr. Cafley adds that for women, knowing the wage range also eliminates the gender bias and norms that can come when women need to negotiate their salaries.

“There are interesting studies in economics and behavioural psychology that talk about when women negotiate their salaries, they are actually seen as norm breakers or violating gender norms, while it is expected for men,” she says. “Pay transparency puts the onus where it should be, which is on the companies and not on the candidates.”

A need for benchmarks

In addition to attracting workers in a tight market, posting salaries also helps to provide transparency to further narrow the gender pay gap, which persists for all Canadian women and is even more distinct for Black, Indigenous and women of colour.

In B.C., where consultations towards the potential tabling of pay transparency legislation closed this summer, women make an average of 16.7 per cent less than men, the second largest gap in Canada, says Grace Lore, parliamentary secretary for gender equity in B.C. Indigenous women in B.C. make 65 cents for every dollar a man does, with other racialized women and newcomers to Canada making 67 and 71 cents to the dollar respectively, she says. Dr. Lore adds the government is also conscious of the significant pay gap for trans women.

“We are looking at pay transparency legislation as one of the tools in the toolkit to make pay practices public and really further our collective understanding of the nature of the gap and understanding of it,” says Dr. Lore. “So that employers and employees have factual information about their organizations. I think it’s going to help us address, measure and understand the problem and help us move forward.”

Karlyn Percil, founder & CEO at KDPM Consulting Group, says greater salary transparency will be a “great win” for Black, Indigenous and other racialized women, but notes there need to be behavioural changes to match the policies.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a benchmark in terms of knowing what a fair wage is,” she says. “We hear a lot of stories from women of colour who accept an offer and then hear that their white counterparts within a company make much more than they do.”

Tangible steps toward equity

Rose LeMay, CEO at the Indigenous Reconciliation Group, says that adding salaries to job postings will provide much-needed transparency, but benefits could be limited for Indigenous women due to the lower number working in sectors that will be posting wages.

“I totally support companies posting the salaries on job postings,” says Ms. LeMay. “There is a thing that happens within Indigenous cultures, we tend to uphold the value of humility. We might not demand the kind of wages that we should be getting when interviewing for a job. When you don’t even know a pay scale, it is hard for an outsider trying to get into a company [to know] what one should ask [for], and when you layer on the humility piece it becomes even more difficult.”

While wage transparency appears to be a growing trend here in Canada and in places such as the U.S. and the U.K., the momentum has stalled in some provinces. Ontario passed legislation in 2018 mandating pay transparency in job ads under the former Liberal government, weeks before Doug Ford became premier. But that legislation has been shelved ever since.

Dr. Cafley notes that employees are increasingly demanding that organizations take tangible steps toward equity – progress that goes beyond lip service.

“People don’t believe good intentions anymore. A recent study from Catalyst [found that] 75 per cent of respondents from Canada don’t believe racial equity policy, they just see them as being words on paper,” she says.

“Something like wage transparency is a commitment to equity and something that isn’t just words.”

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