Canadian Underwriter

What Ontario’s budget means for women in the province’s P&C industry

April 2, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Fair wages for women is becoming a “bigger issue” in the insurance industry, says Colin Simpson, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.

“There is proven disparity in the marketplace” between men’s and women’s salaries, Simpson told Canadian Underwriter Thursday. This is in spite of the fact that Ontario passed its Pay Equity Act more than 30 years ago to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

Last week, in its 2018-19 budget document, the Ontario government promised to increase the Pay Equity Office spending by 25%. It also plans to encourage businesses to set a “target” of ensuring at least 30% of the directors on their boards are women.

Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario government

In the insurance industry, most employees are women, Simpson said last week in an interview when asked about the Ontario budget. Demographic research published by the Insurance Institute in 2012 shows that, across Canada, the female work force in P&C insurance stood at 62 per cent as of 2012.

“There is a whole bunch of stuff in [the budget] about championing women’s economical empowerment,” Simpson said. Ontario employees in the province will be prohibited from asking job applicants about their prior compensation during the hiring process. Employers will also have to include a pay rate or scale for all advertised jobs.

“This is on the understanding that there is a pay disparity between men and women,” Simpson said. “If you are basing offers on what people’s historic pay was, as opposed to what the job offers, then you are going to perpetuate the disparity.”

In 1987, Ontario passed the Pay Equity Act, which requires public sector employers and private-sector employers with 10 or more workers to compare jobs that are usually done by women with jobs that are usually done by men. Employers must pay workers in the “female job class” at least as much as those in the “male job class” of comparable value.

“Based on the fact that our industry has a very high percentage of female employees, it’s going to be interesting to see how that unfolds,” Simpson said of the provincial government’s plan to empower women. “Clearly we would be very supportive of that direction.”

Most of the budget document discusses policy completely unrelated to the budget.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced Wednesday that the province is budgeted to spend $158.4 billion in the fiscal year starting April 1, 2018, with revenues budged at $152.4 billion, for a deficit of $6 billion. The surplus for the year ending March 31, 2018 is $600 million.

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