Ontario’s mandate for equal pay between contingent workers and full-time, traditional workers takes effect Sunday; it’s the first North American jurisdiction to have such an equal pay law, the Ontario Ministry of Labour announced.

The changes come as part of Ontario Bill 148, and have previously been announced. Contingent workers are defined as casual, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers. The new rules mandate equal pay if:

  • “They do substantially the same kind of work, in the same establishment.”
  • “Their work requires substantially the same skill effort and responsibility.”
  • “Their work is performed under similar working conditions.”

Temporary agencies may not pay assigned employees less than what a client pays its own employees under the same conditions above.

“Paying people the same wage for doing the same work is not only fair, it’s the right thing to do,” Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn said in a statement. “Fairness and decency must be the defining values of our workplaces. These changes will ensure that every hard-working Ontarian has a chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity.”

But businesses have expressed concernsThe Globe and Mail newspaper reported that attorney Craig Stehr said there will be immediate challenges for employers and the consequences of the change will be felt throughout the economy.

Attorneys Matthew McCarthy and Michael Comartin of Ogletree Deakins covered the equal pay rule and other changes brought by Bill 148 in a post, and wrote companies should act quickly, updating documents, reviewing existing practices that may no longer comply and conducting training to ensure staff are prepared for the new environment.

Staffing Industry Analysts’ Fiona Coombe, CCWP and director of legal and regulatory research, also discussed the changes in Ontario in a recent legal update. In the update, Coombe noted “the equal pay for equal work rules will be subject to several exceptions including where the wage difference is based on a seniority system, merit system, system that determines pay by quantity or quality of production or ‘any other factor other than sex or employment status.’”