Female workers


Pay equity is a right of all female workers in Québec. Whether you are unionized or non-unionized, you can exercise your right to pay equity if you believe that your employer has not complied with its obligations.

The Commission ensures the application of the Pay Equity Act. To this end, it sees that equity is achieved and maintained in Québec enterprises subject to the Act. The Commission can inform you about the Act and assist you in exercising your rights.

Pay equity, in brief

First of all, it is important to know that there is a major difference between equal pay and pay equity.

The principle of equal pay requires “equal pay for equal work”, that is, when seniority and productivity are equal and two people perform the same work, they must receive the same compensation.

Equal pay

For example, a female salesperson must be paid the same compensation as a male salesperson, a waitress must receive the same compensation as a waiter. This is the equivalent of comparing apples to apples.

The principle of pay equity goes a step further than that of equal pay. It requires that people who are in a predominately female job class, hereinafter called a female job class, receive pay that is equal to that received by those who are in a predominantly male job class, hereinafter called a male job class, that is different but of the same value.

The value of job classes is determined by evaluating them and attributing to them a score according to the characteristics of the duties of the job. In an enterprise, people in a female job class and a different male job class of the same value must receive equal compensation. That is the equivalent, in a way, of comparing apples and oranges.

Pay equity

Examples of work that is different yet equivalent:

  • In a factory, the job of administrative assistant (a female job class) may have the same value as the job of machinist (a male job class).
  • In a seniors’ residence, the job of auxiliary nurse (a female job class) may have the same value as the job of plumber (a male job class).
  • In a hotel, the job of chambermaid (a female job class) may have the same value as the job of porter (a male job class).
  • In a store, the job of cashier (a female job class) may have the same value as the job of handler (a male job class).


Realizing the value of your job

When your employer evaluates the different job classes in the enterprise, certain aspects of female jobs might be ignored or underestimated because they are little known. That could mean that the female workers who hold those jobs are underpaid.

As a female worker, you must be aware of the fair value of your job. You must take into consideration every aspect of your work so that it is remunerated at its fair value.


Take the example of a hairdresser. Here are a few characteristics that are often overlooked:

  • Stress related to the requirements of the clientele and the pace of the work
  • Discretion and diplomacy
  • Fatigue owing to uncomfortable work positions and fine, rapid dexterity
  • Presence of chemical products that irritate the skin and the mucous membranes


The following four factors must be considered in evaluating jobs:

  • Required qualifications
  • Assumed responsibilities
  • Required effort
  • Conditions under which work is performed

Here are examples of often overlooked female aspects and characteristics related to these four factors.

Required qualifications
Aspects Often overlooked female characteristics
Knowledge of machines, tools and equipment Capacity to operate and maintain various types of devices: photocopiers, computers, manufacturing equipment, packing equipment, etc.

Knowledge of software Formatting of documents, graphic design, use of databases or computer forms.
Abilities in interpersonal relations Work with children or adults grappling with problems or aggressive and impatient people.
Manual dexterity and coordination Fine motor skills, computer data entry, use of keyboards, speed of performance inherent in the work, injections using a syringe, production of poster designs, hand-eye coordination, use of sewing machines, cash registers, etc.
Assumed responsibilities
Aspects Often overlooked female characteristics
Regarding information Protection of confidentiality, of delicate information, etc.
Communications Internal communications and communications with people at all hierarchical levels, both internally and externally.
Health and safety of others Care of the ill, cleanliness and safety of the premises, etc.
Staff assistance and support Agenda coordination, taking of reservations, handling emergencies in the absence of the authorities, organization of the logistics of meetings and conferences, reception and integration of staff, including executives, etc.
Required effort
Aspects Often overlooked female characteristics
Physical strain

Elements that cause fatigue, such as a lack of movement, uncomfortable work positions, (standing or sitting in a stationary position), repetitive use of a small number of muscles, fine rapid digital dexterity.

Handling or moving of light objects on a regular basis and carrying or moving of people.

Concentration and sensory attention Concentration required for the performance of a number of rapidly alternating duties (for example, looking at a computer screen, consulting documents, answering the phone and a customer at the counter, etc.), sustained concentration for extended periods on a document, an object.
Psychological strain Self-control related to difficult human relations, a helping relationship, etc.
Conditions under which work is performed
Aspects Often overlooked female characteristics
Physical environment Noise when working in an open-plan office, the presence of bodily substances associated with working with the ill (blood, vomit, etc.) and the presence of cleaning products.
Psychological environment Presence in the work environment of children, the dying, people with disabilities, hostile, violent people or any other particular type of clientele.
Pace of work Stress caused by multiple, often unforeseen, duties, compliance with tight schedules and work in peak periods.


To find out more, see L’évaluation des emplois : prendre en compte les caractéristiques des emplois féminins (French only).

Compensation differences between women and men: a little history

Certain facts may explain in part the compensation differences between women and men. For example, women often have fewer years of experience than men on the labour market (particularly because of motherhood) or, in some cases, they work fewer hours than men. However, some differences are due to a form of so-called systemic discrimination, which can be explained by various elements:

  • Some jobs are generally associated with women or men because of certain occupational stereotypes or social prejudices. For example, jobs as secretaries, cashiers and daycare educators are often associated with women, whereas jobs as mechanics, truck drivers and welders are often associated with men.
  • Long considered pin money, the compensation paid to a mother or a wife who worked outside the home might have been lower than that of a man, who was then considered the family breadwinner.
  • Arriving late on the labour market, women found themselves confined to trades and occupations that were an extension of their traditional role as mothers and wives and which they were practically the only ones to hold.
  • Certain trades and occupations of women often required skills considered an extension of the work they performed at home: helping relationships, availability, meticulousness, etc. Since those aspects of work were considered “naturally” female, they were overlooked when the salaries of female workers were determined.

Criteria for determining whether pay equity applies to a job

To know whether pay equity applies to the job you hold, you must first determine whether you hold a job in a female class. Note that if a man holds a job in a female class, the Pay Equity Act applies to him.

Four criteria must be considered in determining the gender predominance of a job class.

The four criteria provided for in the Act
1. The job you hold is commonly associated with women or men owing to gender-based occupational stereotyping.
2. At least 60% of the positions in that class are held by employees of the same sex.
3. The difference between the rate of representation of women in the job class and their rate of representation in the total workforce of the employer is considered significant. For example, in an enterprise where women account for 55% of the workforce in a job class, whereas they account for only 5% of the total workforce of the enterprise, that job class could be considered predominately female.
4. The historical incumbency of the job class in the enterprise may show that it is a female or male job class. In an enterprise, a job class may have been historically held especially by men or by women. The employer may have observed a trend over a period of time in the enterprise that makes it possible to determine whether a job is female or male. For example, the job class of cashier has been composed mostly of women for the past 10 years.

Those four criteria must be considered. Each job class must be examined according to them, and the most appropriate criterion or criteria must be retained.

It must also be ascertained whether, when remuneration was determined, the job class was composed mostly of women. If so, there may be sex-based discrimination in regard to the remuneration.

If you are in a female job class and are in one of the following situations, you may be entitled to a compensation adjustment.

  • After evaluation, your female job class has been recognized as being of equal value to a male job class for which higher compensation is paid.
  • In situations in which there is no male job class of equal value, the difference in compensation may be measured in proportion to the male job classes that are the closest in value, whether above or below the value of the female job class.

Employers’ obligations

Your employer has certain obligations that must be complied with. Here is a summary of them:

  • Calculate every year the number of employees in the enterprise, until the number reaches an average of 10 employees or more.
  • Submit the employer’s pay equity report as soon as the employer declares to the Registraire des enterprises that there were 11 employees or more in the enterprise the previous year. The report must be completed online each year. By answering certain questions, the employer demonstrates the progress made in pay equity in the enterprise.
  • Implement a pay equity exercise when the enterprise has an average of 10 employees or more. In the exercise, the employer must, among other things, compare female job classes with male job classes and inform all employees in the enterprise by posting the results.
  • Audit pay equity in the enterprise every 5 years and post the results. The audit consists in ascertaining whether changes have occurred in the enterprise and whether they generated compensation differences or not.

To find out more about employers’ obligations, consult the following two fact sheets:

A few important dates

December 31 of each year: a deadline for some employers to implement the pay equity exercise

Employers whose enterprises have reached an average of 10 employees or more during a calendar year must implement a pay equity exercise and post the results within four years as of January 1 of the calendar year in which they become subject to the Act.

The December 31 deadline is therefore a crucial date every year. To find out more about employers to whose enterprises the deadline of December 31, 2014 applies, consult the fact sheet.

Some deadlines have passed, others are in the future

A good many employers should have implemented the pay equity exercise in their enterprises and posted the results no later than December 31, 2010. Other employers may have to implement their pay equity exercise in future years. Contact the Commission to find out when your employer might have to implement its pay equity work.

The pay equity committee

The formation of a pay equity committee is mandatory during the implementation of the pay equity exercice only in enterprises with an average of 100 employees or more. Employers whose enterprises have fewer than 100 employees can set up a pay equity committee, but that is optional. The employer can choose to form a pay equity committee or not at the time of the pay equity audit.

The pay equity committee establishes the pay equity program. As soon as it is formed, it plays a decision-making role. Its main responsibility is to implement the first three stages of the pay equity program:

  • Identification of female job classes and male job classes in the enterprise
  • Description of the evaluation method and tools for these job classes and the development of an evaluation approach
  • Evaluation of the job classes, their comparison, estimation of the compensation differences and calculation of the compensation adjustments

Its role is consultative in the fourth stage:

  • Determination of the terms of payment of the compensation adjustments

Furthermore, the committee is responsible for posting the results of the pay equity program.

To learn more about the pay equity committee, consult section 4 of the Guide pour réaliser l'équité salariale et en évaluer le maintien (French only).

Actions and rights of employees

As an employee in a female job, you have rights and you can take an active part in achieving pay equity in your enterprise.


Participation by employees

You can contribute to the implementation of pay equity in your enterprise in several ways:

  • By providing your employer with information about your duties so that the evaluation of your job is as complete as possible. Give particular attention to the four factors and the often overlooked female characteristics;
  • By being part of the pay equity committee of your enterprise. The committee is mandatory in enterprises with an average of 100 employees or more. The following rules govern the composition of the committee:
    • at least two-thirds of the members are employees, 50% of whom are women;
    • the other members represent the employer, which designates them.
  • By taking the time to read the posted results of the pay equity audit, understand the information in them and ask questions. In that regard, consult the document Comment lire l’affichage des résultats d'un exercice d'équité salariale? (French only) according to the size of the enterprise:
  • By contacting the Commission to ensure that your employer has submitted the employer’s pay equity report and to obtain information about the Act.


Filing a complaint

As a female worker, you are entitled to pay equity. You can file a complaint with the Commission if:

  • Your employer has not implemented the pay equity exercise or the pay equity audit and has not posted the results, whereas the employer should have done so;
  • Your employer implemented the pay equity exercise or the pay equity audit and posted the results, but you have reasons to believe that the work is not in compliance with the Act;
  • You have reasons to believe that the steps taken by the employer or their attitude infringe the Pay Equity Act;
  • You note the presence of sexist prejudices or sex-based discrimination in the pay equity work implemented;
  • The employer does not pay employees in female jobs compensation equal to that of male jobs of the same value;
  • You are subjected to reprisals for exercising a right provided for in the Act.

The Commission is committed to protecting your identity at all times. It must not disclose to an employer the identity of the person who filed a complaint. However, it must inform the employer of the date of the complaint, its content and the provision under which it was filed. If, at one point, the Commission believes that it can no longer protect your identity, you will be informed and you will always have an opportunity to withdraw your complaint.

You can count on the assistance and support of the Commission’s staff throughout the process by which the complaint is handled. If necessary, you can contact the investigator to discuss your complaint and find out the progress made in your file.

In addition, the Commission has all legal means to make known your rights and protect you against reprisals.


If you want to file a complaint with the Commission, you can download the form.

To find out the steps in a complaint (French only) submitted to the Commission.

In the case of a complaint for reprisals

If you file a complaint because you are a victim of reprisals (for example, a threat, a reduction in salary or a dismissal) by your employer because you exercised a right provided for in the Act, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail can ask the Tribunal administratif du travail to take steps against your employer.



Only enterprises that implement the pay equity exercise or the pay equity audit with a pay equity committee can submit a dispute to the Commission.

A dispute may be submitted to the Commission, following a disagreement during the implementation of a pay equity exercise or pay equity audit, either by the representatives of the employees or of the employer on the pay equity committee, or by the representatives of the employer or of the employees when a pay equity program is implemented jointly.

Do you have questions? Contact the Commission

  • You can obtain answers directly by calling 1 844 838-0808 Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from anywhere in Québec.
  • You can email us at: equite.salariale@cnesst.gouv.qc.ca.
  • In most cases, when you ask for information, we respond by phone. You must therefore be sure to indicate your telephone number in your message.
  • You can take part in the training offered online that is intended for female workers.

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