is it illegal to discuss wages in canada

Can Employees Discuss Their Salaries?

Picture this scenario: you’re in your office, having a discussion with your coworker. The topic of salary gets brought up and you all freeze.

Is discussing your salaries with other employees allowed? Is it illegal to discuss wages in Canada? Do you remember something about a policy in the office that prevents you from doing so? What if your coworker makes more than you?

This is something many people experience in their workplace. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether workers can or cannot discuss their salaries, and whether employers can limit what is said in the office. Employees should know that, by law, their employers cannot keep them from discussing their salaries.

Keep reading to find out why your employer cannot prevent you from discussing your pay, what your rights are as an employee, and what you can do if you are faced with a policy that does not reflect Ontario’s laws.

Is it illegal to discuss wages in Canada?

The short answer is “no.” Your employer is not allowed to prevent you from speaking about your pay.

The Pay Transparency Act

The Pay Transparency Act is Ontario legislation that aims to promote equal opportunity in the workplace through increased transparency in relation to pay. The Act aims to establish pay equity between men and women. Through increased discussion about pay and mandatory transparency on the part of employers, the dialogue has opened about the gender wage gap in the workplace.

The Act dictates that:

  • Employers cannot ask someone applying for a job about their compensation (pay) history. A job applicant can tell the prospective employer voluntarily, so long as the interviewer did not prompt them to do so.
  • Every employer with 100 or more employees must present a pay transparency report to their employees every year by May 15th. 
  • Most importantly, the Act states that employers cannot dismiss, intimidate, or penalize an employee for:
    • Discussing or inquiring about their pay or the pay of another employee;
    • Disclosing their pay to someone else;
    • Asking about the employer’s efforts to conform with this Act or about the pay transparency report; or 
    • Telling the Ministry of Labour about whether their employer is or isn’t complying with the Act.

Based on this Act, your employer is not allowed to prevent you from speaking about your pay with another employee, or from asking your employer directly about anything contained in the Pay Transparency Act

Part XII of the Employment Standards Act: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Part XII of the Employment Standards Act: Equal Pay for Equal Work establishes that employers should pay their employees the same amount if they do comparable work, regardless of the employee’s sex. Employers can differentiate pay based on a number of factors, such as seniority, a merit-based system, a system that measures earnings based on the quality or quantity of production, or other systems that do not have to do with sex. 

Like the Pay Transparency Act, Part XVIII of the Employment Standards Act: Reprisal states that employers cannot intimidate, fire, or penalize an employee for:

  • Asking their employer to comply with the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”);
  • Inquiring about their rights under the ESA;
  • Filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labour;
  • Exercising a right under the ESA;
  • Giving information to an employment standards officer;
  • Making inquiries about the compensation given to another employee in order to make sure it complies with Part XII of the ESA: Equal Pay for Equal Work; and
  • Disclosing their own rate of pay to another employee in order to ensure that their employer is complying with Part XII of the ESA: Equal Pay for Equal Work. 

Based on parts XII and XVIII of the ESA, employers cannot prevent their employees from discussing their salaries in the workplace. Employees can disclose their salary to other employees and ask other employees about what they are being paid if they want to ensure that their employer is complying with the right to Equal Pay for Equal Work.

What If My Employer Told Me Not to Discuss My Salary?

It can be difficult for an employee to want to enforce their right to discuss their salary with their coworker and ask that their employer be transparent with the salaries of all their employees. Perhaps the topic feels ‘taboo’, or your employer has issued a workplace policy saying that employees should not discuss their salaries. No matter the reason, employees should know their rights.

Employees have the right to discuss their salary, even if the employer implements a policy stating otherwise. If you feel comfortable, remind your employer that workplace policies need to be in line with the ESA, and inquire about whether they are following ESA regulations. That might remind your employer that they should be paying close attention to their responsibilities under the ESA.

If your employer punishes you for anything listed above or continues to prevent you from speaking about your salary, reach out to an employment lawyer at Achkar Law, as you may have options such as being able to submit a complaint to the Ministry of Labour.


Employees in Ontario have the right to discuss their salaries based on both the Pay Transparency Act and the Employment Standards Act. Even if an employer chooses to issue policies or tries to keep their employees from discussing their pay, the right still stands and can be used by any Ontario employee. 

If you have concerns about whether your workplace is following the regulations set by the Ontario government regarding equal pay, pay transparency, or discussing pay in the workplace, be sure to reach out to a qualified employment lawyer at Achkar Law for help. 

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