The Ontario government may delay — and possibly change — legislation brought in by the previous Liberals to narrow the gender wage gap.
Labour Minister Laurie Scott said the Pay Transparency Act, may not come into effect Jan. 1.
“We are looking into the implementation of it and the challenges that may be occurring with some businesses,” Scott told reporters at Queen’s Park.
“We believe, certainly, in the principle of the pay transparency — it’s just the timing.”
Scott said the government supports “parts of the Pay Transparency Act,” but the issue is “engaging with the business community and how the process is to be done.”
The act, which passed before the election, was an effort to close the gender wage gap — as high as 30 per cent in some sectors — by forcing employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and also to track wages by gender and diversity and report back to the province.
Companies would also be banned from asking job candidates about their current or previous salary.
The law was based on similar legislation in Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, and was a first in Canada. Former Liberal labour minister Kevin Flynn estimated, based on other countries’ success, that it would lower the wage gap by about 15 per cent.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath — who had previously criticized the former Liberal government for taking so long to act — said the current Ford government can’t just cater to businesses, it also has to look after workers.
“I just wonder how much further this government can drag us backwards,” she said. “It’s 2018, and women should not be earning the same wages as everyone else? People should not be able to ask their employer how much wages the co-workers, that they work beside, are earning?
“It is just backwards.”
A written statement from Scott’s office said “the government understands that concerns have been raised about the Pay Transparency Act and is reviewing the legislation and its impact on the overall economy.
“The plan is to create and protect jobs by sending the message that Ontario is open for business” and to work “cooperatively with the people of Ontario, including small businesses, to reduce the burdens they face.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he doesn’t think the reforms are onerous.
The Guelph MPP used to run his own small business and “you can push a button and get a payroll report — you can redact out names without a problem.
“I don’t see it as a major reporting burden — it’s certainly less of a burden than remitting HST.”
News of the likely delay comes as the government also overhauls labour legislation, freezing the minimum wage at $14 for the next two years and doing away with two paid sick days for workers.
Instead of up to 10 days off — including the two paid days in cases of illness — the Ford government is proposing to provide workers with three sick days, two bereavement days and three personal days, all unpaid.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy