Equality Report Card: Improved Employment Standards

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Our Analysis:

We were happy a new statutory holiday, Islander Day, was instituted. This will help contribute to work-life balance in many Island families.

Long-awaited updates to the Employment Standards Act that protects non-unionized workers on PEI were publicly promised for the fall, and then the spring, sitting of the legislature, but they were not brought forward in either sitting.

Public consultation on Employment Standards was extensive and was completed more than three years ago. Community organizations devoted hundreds of hours to analyzing the legislation and making recommendations and presentations. The Review Panel’s recommendations for change were delivered to the new government two years ago. Work to revise the legislation has been done: it is past time to make the proposed updates.

Among the Review Panel’s proposed updates to benefit workers are reduced qualification threshold for caregiving leaves; extension to maternity leave if the baby is ill; strengthened provisions for caregiving leaves requiring employer to grant an employee the option of maintaining a benefit plan if employee pays the costs; enhanced definition of “family member” for compassionate care leave; and three weeks’ paid vacation after eight years continuous employment with the same employer. However, we still have heard no public commitment that these recommendations will be set forward in the updated legislation. We also don’t know if there will be other changes that may offset positive changes or even be negative for women and their families.

There is still no systematic process for legislation such as the Employment Standards Act to undergo a full evidence-based review based on gender and diversity considerations.

The 2009 increase to the minimum wage means the minimum wage is headed in the right direction, but it does not raise the wage to a livable amount. At $8.40/hr full-time, full-year minimum wage workers still fall below the poverty line. Also, government doesn’t demonstrate a long-term plan for wages: increases only go as far as this year, and the minimum wage is not indexed to the cost of living. We continued to have the lowest hourly and yearly wages in the country, year after year, and the minimum wage serves as an “anchor” weighing all wages down across the province.


This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2009 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2009 and based on information updated to May 30, 2009.

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