British Columbia’s Pay Transparency Act, Bill 13, became effective on May 11, 2023, with an immediate salary history ban. From November 1, employers must also include wage information in job postings and provide annual pay transparency reports.
While Canada’s Federal Pay Equity Act is based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, pay transparency legislation across its provinces is patchy. British Columbia has one of the highest gender pay gaps, and now requires employers to take action to close it.
Closing the gender pay gap in British Columbia (BC)
BC’s Pay Transparency Act aims to address systemic workplace discrimination and reduce pay gaps affecting women, people of color, non-binary, and disabled people. But accessing accurate, and consistent information has been challenging.
In 2021, Statistics Canada data shows that women in BC earn just 71 cents in every Canadian dollar compared to men. In contrast, in 2022, the BC government website indicates a lower pay gap of 17%.
In attempting to gain accurate insights into the experiences of diverse groups, the picture becomes even more complex. An intersectional study highlights the damaging impact of persistent pay disparities on Indigenous and immigrant women, for example.
All sources agree on one point, however. BC’s gender pay gap is one of the largest of all the provinces. Below, we summarize the impact of its Pay Transparency Act and offer strategies to ensure compliance.
A ban on British Columbia pay history inquiries
From May 11, 2023, British Columbia pay history inquiries have been prohibited. Employers must not inquire about an applicant’s salary, either directly or through a third party, unless that pay history information is publicly available.
BC employers are also prohibited from dismissing, suspending, demoting, disciplining, harassing or otherwise disadvantaging an employee, or threatening to do so, if that employee:
Asks the employer about their pay;
Shares information about their pay with a colleague or job candidate;
Asks the employer about a pay transparency report or information contained in it;
Asks the employer to comply with its obligations under the Pay Transparency Act, or;
Submits a report about the employer’s compliance to the Director of Pay Transparency.
Compliance with salary information in job postings
One of the Act’s key requirements is the inclusion of pay ranges in all publicly advertised job postings. Ahead of November 1, BC’s government issued further guidance for employers:
The expected wage or salary or expected wage or salary range must be included in job postings. Bonus pay, overtime pay, tips, or benefits are not mandatory, but employers may voluntarily disclose this information. If the posting includes a wage or salary range, minimum and maximum salary levels must be specified.
BC government guidance provides specific examples of how to display salary information in job postings, for instance:
“$20 per hour,” “$20-$30 per hour, ” “$40,000 per year,” and “$40,000-$60,000 per year” are acceptable.
“$20 per hour and up” or “up to $30 per hour” does not comply with the Act.
Wage or salary information should be the employer’s reasonable expectation of pay for the job at the time of posting. A higher salary can be negotiated by job applicants during the hiring process, but employers cannot negotiate a lower wage.
The legislation applies to all BC employers and covers:
Jobs posted by employers and third parties on other hiring platforms, such as job boards, on the employer’s behalf.
Positions advertised in other jurisdictions, if the job can be filled by a BC resident, either in person or remotely.
“Help wanted” positions and general recruitment campaigns that don’t advertise a specific position are exempt. Wage information is not required for jobs that are not posted publicly.
Pay Transparency Act: Phased-in reporting for employers
BC organizations with 50 or more employees must submit pay transparency reports from November 1, 2023. Reporting is phased, based on employer size, for instance:
From November 1, 2023: BC government and the six largest Crown corporations: BC Hydro, BC Housing, BC Lottery Corp, BC Transit, ICBC, and Work Safe BC. A pay transparency report published by BC Public Service found that men earn 8.3% (median) more than women in government jobs.
November 1, 2024: employers with 1,000 or more employees
November 1, 2025: 300 employees or more
November 1, 2026: 50 employees or more
November 1, 2027: 49 or fewer employees and any “prescribed number.”
Beginning 2024, employer reports will be published on June 1 of each year by BC’s Ministry of Finance. A review on the Act’s effectiveness will take place after five years.
Are pay equity protections in place?
In its current form, BC’s Pay Transparency Act is an “opt in” model. BC’s government has no powers of enforcement, although the appointment of a Director of Pay Transparency suggests that may change. The Director’s responsibilities include helping employers to comply with the requirements of the Act and receiving reports of non-compliance.
At present, employees are offered pay equity protections under Section 12 of BC’s Human Rights Code. The Code states that employers must not discriminate in wages between similarly situated employees on the basis of sex.
BC Pay Transparency Act: Strategies for compliance
Employers of all sizes can take proactive action to prepare for pay transparency reporting now:
Open up conversations around pay transparency: Research from Robert Half found that only 56% of Canadian women plan to negotiate a pay rise this year, compared to 64% of men. This echoes an earlier report from Indeed, which found that most Canadian women expect employers to address pay transparency. Opening up the conversation around this often taboo topic is a critical step in removing barriers to equal pay.
Conduct an intersectional pay equity audit: As research shows, getting to the root causes of pay disparities in British Columbia is difficult without considering intersectionality.Trusaic PayParity analyzes pay at the intersection of factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, disability, and more. Intersectionalityhas a vital role to play in closing BC’s persistent gender pay gap.
Create equitable and explainable salary or wage information: Trusaic PayParity and Salary Range Finder can help to determine competitive and fair salary ranges by overlaying internal pay equity audit data with that of external labor market data. Fair salary ranges are determined by combining the two data points, enabling BC employers to comply with Bill 13.
Start your journey to pay equity. Schedule a demo or speak to one of our pay equity experts.
Conducting a pay equity audit is a key component to ensuring equitable compensation within your organization. Just as important as the analysis is how you communicate findings and progress with various stakeholders. Download The Pay Equity Communications Planner to learn best practices for discussing compensation, both internally and externally.