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Job postings in Ontario must soon include salaries. Pay equity advocates call it a good first step

The Ontario government is bringing in new labour laws that among other changes will force employers to disclose salary information in job postings — a move employment experts say is good for job seekers and employers alike.

“At a time when many companies are posting record profits, it is only fair they communicate transparently about how they pay workers,” said David Piccini, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, in announcing a slew of updates to the province’s employment legislation

Among the changes are several targeting the hospitality sector, including new rules banning unpaid work in the form of trial shifts, and stipulations forbidding employers form deducting wages in the event of a dine and dash, gas and dash, or any other stolen property.

A major one will be a new requirement for employers in the province to include the salary range for the position in any job posting.

British Columbia and Prince Edward Island both signed similar legislation into law in the past year and Ontario itself had planned to implement even stronger requirements than those outlined on Tuesday all the way back in 2018, but the legislation died when the Liberal government of the day was voted out.

Kawal Preet Kaur is a foreign trained doctor and professor at a medical school in her native India, but she has not been able to find suitable work in Canada after two years of trying.
Kawal Preet Kaur is a foreign-trained doctor and professor at a medical school in her native India, but has wasted a lot of time applying for jobs in Canada without knowing how much the salary is. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Job seekers like Kawal Preet Kaur say the move is a step in the right direction and long overdue. She’s an internationally trained doctor who was a professor at a medical school in her native India, but she hasn’t been successful in permanently breaking into either the medical or academic fields in Canada after two years of trying.

While she says there are many frustrating reasons for that, one basic improvement to the process for everyone would be to require compensation details to be included in job postings.

All too often, a job seeker will second-guess themselves when asked for their salary expectation, because if the number is too high, they’ll be rejected, but if it’s too low “they’ll think that there might be some deficiencies in the candidate,” she said. “It goes both ways.”

It adds up to a lot of wasted time and effort for both sides. She estimates that from the moment the job-seeking process starts — from looking at job sites, filtering for the right jobs, tailoring a resumé and cover letter,  and going through the application, including a potential interview — it takes a full working day to apply for a job in a way that gives the applicant a fair shot at actually getting it.

Posting salary ranges “definitely helps employers and employees both … because it saves unnecessary applications to those jobs.”

As things stand, only about 37 per cent of all online job postings in Ontario last year included salary information.

WATCH | New push to force companies to disclose salaries in job postings:

The push for companies to disclose salaries

Featured VideoThere’s a growing movement calling on companies to be more transparent about salaries for prospective employees and including them on job postings. Since this story initially aired, New York City has pushed back its pay transparency requirements from May to November.

Kristina McDougall runs Artemis Canada, an executive search firm that handles leadership recruitment for technology companies. She says the companies she works with are big believers in transparency in general.

“Requiring transparency across the board … gives companies good data,” she said in an interview. “They’re able to see what compensation looks like before they post a role or before they start looking for new employees.”

That’s not to say it’s easy or will be welcomed with open arms by everyone. “It requires you to make sure that pay equity is happening, not just as people walk in the door but across the organization,” she said. “There’s some organizations that I think will see that that’s an uncomfortable thing to do.”

But ultimately, both sides of the job market will be better off from establishing ground rules on a topic that can often be uncomfortable.

“It’s taboo to talk about compensation, so it’s not always comfortable — especially for someone who has less experience in a job-search process — to ask about money at the beginning,” she said.

No easy fix

Economist Armine Yalnizyan says the new rules are a step in the right direction toward full transparency — and pay equity — but by themselves won’t do much to end the wage gap between men and women, or between different marginalized groups. 

According to government data, women in Ontario earn an average of $0.87 for every dollar earned by men – a number that is worse for racialized and Indigenous women.

“Discrimination is colour-coded,” Yalnizyan said. “Wage discrimination always goes to the people who you know employers think should feel that they are lucky to have a job in the first place.”

Full details of the proposal were not included in the legislation tabled on Tuesday, and Yalnizyan says it’s hard to know how effective the move might be without knowing the nitty-gritty.

“It may not affect the wage gap at all,” she said. “Because it’s not just about more information, it’s actually doing something with that information and changing patterns of behaviour.”

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