All things being unequal: Quebec's renewed focus on pay equity 


May 2011

Corporate Bulletin
Advertisements have appeared across the province of Quebec with a clear message: if you work for an employer with at least 10 employees, you may be entitled to a salary adjustment. Given this renewed focus on pay equity, Quebec employers need to understand their obligations.

what is "pay equity"?

The Pay Equity Act1 (the "Act") requires employers to address disparities in wages of employees occupying positions in "predominantly female job categories". To achieve pay equity, an employer must ensure that persons occupying "predominantly female job categories" receive equal remuneration to that obtained by persons occupying "predominantly male job categories" that are of equal value to the business.

to whom does the act apply?

In May 2009, the Act was amended to require Quebec employers who had at least 10 employees before March 12, 2004 to enact or update their pay equity plans by December 31, 2010. Employers falling within this category who have not yet updated or enacted pay equity plans have missed the deadline and must take steps to achieve compliance as soon as possible or risk being fined.

An employer who does not currently have 10 employees becomes subject to the Act on January 1 of the year following which it employs 10 employees. An employer will then have four years from January 1 to comply with the Act.

what are an employer's obligations under the Act?

An employer's obligations pursuant to the Act depends on the size of its business as well as what stage of the pay equity process it is in. For example, an employer with 100 or more employees is required to establish at least one pay equity committee.

Employers subject to the Act must take steps to determine the salary adjustments required to attain pay equity by:

  • identifying "predominantly female job categories" and "predominantly male job categories."
  • establishing a method of evaluation and comparing "predominantly female job categories" with "predominantly male job categories."
  • if salary adjustments are necessary, calculating these adjustments and determining terms and conditions for payment.
  • posting the pay equity plan for 60 days in prominent places easily accessible to employees.2

Postings must, among other things, inform the employees of the sexual predominance of the listed job categories and of the necessary salary adjustments, if any. If subsequent to the posting the employees request modifications, the employer must post the plan with or without the requested modifications. Additionally, the employees' recourses under the Act must be set out in each posting.

Every employer must evaluate the maintenance of pay equity in its business every five years and the results of the evaluation must be posted. All documents, information and postings must be preserved for the following five years.

An employer who is late in fulfilling its obligations under the Act may be fined. Additionally, if an employer has not posted the results of the pay equity exercise in its business or has failed to inform its employees of their rights and recourses under the Act, the employees may file a complaint at the Commission de l'équité salariale by May 30, 2011 and receive a salary adjustment retroactive to November 21, 2001. For applications made by employees after May 30, 2011, salary adjustments are retroactive to the period beginning five years prior to the filing of their claim.

by Kelly Francis, Enda Wong and Dave McKechnie

1 R.S.Q.,c.E-12.001.

2 The number of postings varies depending on the size of the business.

a cautionary note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2011