Pay Equity Analysis in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide

A woman counting coins on a table

On the world stage, pay equity is influenced by many international organizations seeking equal pay for work of equal value. Within Canada, this movement is protected by the federal Pay Equity Act, which outlines the rules organizations must follow from a compliance perspective. This act extends beyond legal considerations to showcase an alignment with principles of fairness and equality.

One of the key components of the Pay Equity Act is the requirement for organizations to conduct a pay equity analysis every five years, provided they employ more than ten individuals. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll shed light on the importance of pay equity analysis in Canada and provide you with a structured approach to conducting it successfully.

What is a Pay Equity Analysis?

Pay equity analysis refers to the process of assessing and rectifying pay disparities within an organization, ensuring employees are compensated fairly for comparable work. In Canada, this isn’t merely a best practice—it is a legal requirement aimed at eliminating wage discrimination.

To achieve pay equity within your organization, it is imperative to conduct a pay equity analysis. This process will give you the data needed to understand where gaps may exist and provide insights into clear opportunities to remedy them. 

Why Conduct a Pay Equity Analysis?

While legal adherence is a primary motivator for Canadian companies to perform pay equity analyses, the benefits of this process transcend legal compliance:

  • Promoting workplace fairness and employee satisfaction. Increasingly, staff are concerned with the overall accountability of their companies and the guiding principles of their decision-making. In a fair workplace, employees can feel confident in their organization and satisfied with their work.
  • Improved diversity and inclusion. Pay equity analyses can move beyond the numbers to consider the varied roles in your organization and who holds them. To level the playing field, you can leverage your analysis to understand how to make more opportunities for underrepresented groups with DE&I initiatives.
  • Enhanced organizational reputation. Companies that uphold high standards of ethical and moral considerations as they relate to fairness, such as pay equity, can bolster their reputation. In the search for top talent, you can set your business above the rest.

Addressing pay gaps and ensuring fairness in compensation is a legal obligation and a moral imperative. Conducting a pay equity analysis helps organizations identify and rectify discrepancies, fostering an equitable and inclusive work environment.

The Pay Equity Landscape in Canada

As previously outlined, pay equity in Canada is protected under federal law. This law mandates that business owners periodically update a pay equity plan related to their operations and staff. 

When employers assess their compensation practices, the review process should encompass the following steps:

  • Job Evaluation: Evaluate various job roles and positions within the organization to identify the workforce’s distinct job classes.
  • Gender Classification: Determine whether each job class is predominantly male, predominantly female, or gender-neutral. Also, assess the value of each job class in relation to the company’s operations.
  • Compensation Analysis: Calculate the compensation for each job class and compare it to similar classes that perform work of equal value.

When the Pay Equity Act was enacted in 2021, employers were given a three-year window to establish a plan to increase the compensation for female-dominated job classes that received lower pay than their male counterparts performing similar work. Subsequently, this strategy should be revisited and revised every five years to ensure ongoing pay equity and the reduction of gender wage disparities.

This law primarily addresses fundamental concerns but doesn’t specifically tackle other pay disparities, such as gender pay equality. While there has been some progress in reducing the gender pay gap in recent years, its continued existence underscores the need for further legal and organizational efforts.

Conducting a Pay Equity Analysis: A Step-by-Step Approach

Step 1: Planning for a Successful Pay Equity Analysis

Successful pay equity analysis begins with thorough planning and early preparation. This stage is critical for setting the foundation for a fair and effective review.

  1. Define the scope and objectives of the analysis: Clearly detail what you aim to achieve with this pay equity analysis, such as identifying and rectifying gaps. 
  2. Identify key stakeholders: Determine who within the organization needs to be involved, including HR professionals, legal experts, and senior management, to ensure all aspects are covered.
  3. Establish a timeline: Construct a practical and achievable timeline for the analysis, ensuring each phase is allotted sufficient time for thorough execution.
  4. Allocate resources: Allocate essential resources, including budget, staff, and technology, to facilitate the smooth progression of the analysis.

Engaging in open communication to garner support and commitment is especially important during the planning phase. Part of this involves securing buy-in from key stakeholders, including senior leadership, which is crucial for the success of the pay equity analysis. 

Step 2: Researching Pay Policies and Regulations

Before conducting the analysis, it’s vital to have a comprehensive grasp of both internal pay policies within the organization and external regulations related to pay equity, especially in the context of federal and provincial laws.

  1. Review Applicable Laws: Start by verifying which laws apply to your organization. For example, the Pay Equity Act only pertains to companies with ten or more employees, as does Ontario legislation on this topic. 
  2. Examine Labor Contracts: Delve into labour contracts to gain insights into existing compensation structures, if any. Uncertainties regarding legal prerequisites should be clarified by seeking legal counsel or consulting HR experts specializing in Canadian pay equity issues.

It is worth noting that existing pay policies, such as merit-based pay or seniority systems, can impact the analysis outcomes. Do the work beforehand to understand these policies and interpret the data accurately.

Step 3: Gathering Relevant Data

Collecting the correct data as it relates to pay equity is critical. Overlooking even one key point could cause inaccurate results. Consider key data points, such as:

  • Employee demographic information (e.g., gender, age)
  • Job titles
  • Compensation data
  • Years of service
  • Relevant performance metrics.

Next, detail the methods and sources for gathering data, which may involve HR records, payroll data, and performance evaluations. As you do this, strictly adhere to data privacy regulations. Ensure all data is anonymized and employees’ personal information is protected.

Step 4: Comparing Job Positions and Work

Comparable work can look different depending on the industry and sector. Many workplaces consider skills, effort, responsibility, and overall working conditions. Benchmarking these factors is pivotal to establishing fair job comparisons. Develop a clear methodology for categorizing jobs based on objective criteria, ensuring that the comparisons are valid and unbiased.

There can be numerous complexities involved in job comparisons, including evolving roles and changing skill requirements. As you perform a pay equity analysis, do what you can to address these challenges. Outside of this process, attempt to review and update job classifications regularly.

Step 5: Analyzing the Data

Statistical methods used in your pay equity analysis will differ depending on the data intake and details at your disposal. Considering the calibre of information, it is advisable to invest in reliable software and tools designed for pay equity analysis to ensure precision and reduce human error in calculations. 

Regression analysis, t-tests, and multivariate analysis are commonly employed in pay equity analysis to identify pay differences and potential biases in compensation. Here’s a brief description of each of these methods:

Regression Analysis

  • Purpose: To examine the relationship between one or more independent variables (such as gender, job category, and experience) and a dependent variable (e.g., salary).
  • Application: Helpful in determining if a statistically significant association exists between a protected characteristic (like gender) and compensation after controlling for other relevant factors. It can also quantify the extent of pay disparities while considering various variables influencing pay.

Multivariate Analysis

  • Purpose: To examine multiple independent variables simultaneously to understand their collective impact on a dependent variable.
  • Application: Beneficial when multiple factors could influence pay disparities, such as gender, job category, education, and years of experience. Techniques like multiple regression or logistic regression can be used to assess how these factors interact and jointly contribute to pay differences. It allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing compensation and potential biases.


  • Purpose: To compare the means of two groups to determine if they are statistically different.
  • Application: Useful for comparing the mean salaries of different groups, such as men and women, to assess whether a statistically significant difference exists between their average pay.

In a pay equity analysis, these statistical methods are applied to the dataset containing information on employee characteristics and compensation. The results of these analyses can help organizations identify patterns, trends, and potential biases in their compensation practices.

Step 6: Assessing Legal Justification

Canadian pay equity laws generally require that employees in predominantly female job classes receive equal pay for work of equal value when compared to primarily male job classes. Pay differences based solely on gender are not permissible.

However, pay disparities may be legally justified if they are based on factors other than gender, provided these factors meet specific criteria. It is important to clearly document and explain any pay differences based on such details.

Common factors that can legally justify pay differences include:

  • Job-Related Skills and Responsibilities: Employers must demonstrate that the differences in pay are directly linked to the job requirements.
  • Seniority: Seniority-based pay systems are generally allowed. If seniority is used as a basis for pay differences, it must be objective and not discriminate against any particular group.
  • Merit: Performance-based pay differences are permissible when they are based on an objective assessment of individual performance.
  • Experience and Qualifications: Differences in pay may be justified based on an employee’s experience, education, or qualifications, provided these factors are relevant to the job.

To assess whether pay differences comply with Canadian pay equity laws and to ensure compliance, consider different analytical methods listed in Step 5.

Step 7: Taking Action to Address Pay Differences

Interpreting the data that results from your pay equity analysis means gaining a perspective on the pay differences in your organization. Whether they are minor or glaring, there are a few ways to mitigate existing gaps and promote pay equity. Here are some best practices to potentially implement: 

  • Implement clear and transparent compensation policies that outline how pay is determined. Ensure that these policies are accessible to all employees.
  • Foster a workplace culture that prioritizes fairness and equity. Encourage open dialogue about compensation and provide channels for employees to voice concerns without fear of retaliation.
  • Commit to fair compensation practices, including ongoing review of pay structures to identify and correct biases. Regularly update job classifications and salary ranges to reflect market rates and changing job responsibilities.
  • Implement diversity and inclusion programs that promote diversity at all levels of the organization. Ensure that these initiatives address pay disparities and offer opportunities for underrepresented groups.

By implementing these practices, organizations can actively promote pay equity across essential touchpoints. The more precise the communication surrounding pay and your organization’s commitment to addressing issues head-on, the greater the relationship your company will have with new and existing employees.

In Summary

While pay equity in Canada is federally legislated, actively following a process to create a plan to address pay gaps in your organization has far-reaching implications. As the trend of transparency in compensation becomes a mainstay, employees want to know what their companies are doing to protect their rights and maintain compliance with relevant laws. 

Although we’ve outlined the steps to conduct a successful pay equity analysis, tackling this process without external support can be daunting. At True North, we encourage all the businesses we work with to prioritize pay equity compliance to achieve fairness and can help you put policies in place. Reach out to us today to see how we can work together to close pay gaps and promote transparency within your organization.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pay Equity Analysis

How do we do a gender pay equity analysis?

  1. Data Collection: Gather relevant data on employee demographics (including gender), job titles, and compensation. Ensure data privacy and confidentiality.
  2. Job Grouping: Categorize jobs based on objective criteria like skills, responsibilities, and qualifications to identify job classes for comparison.
  3. Statistical Analysis: Use statistical methods such as regression analysis or t-tests to assess gender-based pay disparities. Analyze if, on average, male and female employees in comparable job classes receive equitable compensation.
  4. Factor in Legal Justifications: Consider factors like job-related skills, seniority, merit, qualifications, and experience as potential justifications for pay differences.
  5. Identify Unexplained Gaps: Any pay differences that legitimate factors cannot justify should be considered potential gender-based pay disparities.
  6. Take Corrective Action: Rectify unexplainable disparities, including adjusting salaries, revising compensation policies, or addressing systemic issues.

How often should you conduct a pay equity analysis?

In Canada, the frequency of pay equity analysis should be every five years from the initial assessment to comply with federal laws. 

  1. Initial Analysis: When pay equity laws first apply to your organization, typically within a specified timeframe after reaching a specific employee count (more than ten staff).
  2. Subsequent Reviews: Conduct follow-up pay equity reviews periodically (e.g., every three to five years) or more frequently as significant organizational changes occur.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: Regularly monitor pay practices to address any potential disparities promptly.

Who needs a pay equity plan in Canada?

In Canada, organizations subject to federal or provincial/territorial pay equity legislation are typically required to develop and maintain a pay equity plan. The specific criteria and thresholds for coverage may vary by jurisdiction, but generally include:

  • Size of Organization: Organizations with a minimum number of employees often trigger pay equity obligations (e.g., a certain headcount threshold).
  • Sector and Jurisdiction: The application of pay equity laws may vary depending on the industry or jurisdiction in which the organization operates.
  • Type of Organization: Public and private sector and federally regulated employers may have different requirements and thresholds.

It’s crucial to consult the relevant federal, provincial, or territorial legislation and seek legal advice to determine if your organization falls under pay equity obligations and if a pay equity plan is required.