Glossary – Federal Pay Equity Act

Pay equity is a fundamental human right. Pay equity is essential because it addresses the undervaluation of women’s work, which contributes to Canada’s significant gender wage gap. Canada’s Pay Equity Act came into effect on August 31, 2021. We compiled this Glossary of Terms as a reference to help members of joint pay equity committees during their mandate.

Pay equity process: a process whereby male dominated and female dominated jobs are compared to identify differences in pay which disadvantage female jobs. 

Job evaluation: the determination of the relative value of jobs within the same establishment.

Job evaluation plan: a tool used to determine the relative value of jobs. Job evaluation plans are usually made up of factors, sub-factors, rating scales and instructions to evaluators

Factor: a job element used to measure relative job worth. Factors used for pay equity purposes include the knowledge and skills required to perform the work, the responsibilities of the job, the effort required and the disagreeable working conditions that a worker is exposed to.

Sub-factor: a job-element associated with one of the four factors identified above. The following are examples of sub-factors that are often associated with the four main factors. This list is not exhaustive and there are other sub-factors that may be considered:

Knowledge and skills

Dexterity or coordination: the skillful use hands and limbs to perform the work.

Communication: the communication skills required to interact with others.


Impact: the impact of the work performed on others within and outside the organization as well as the organization’s finances, its image, its clients, and its human and material resources.

Problem-solving: the difficulty of, and independence required to solve work-related problems. This accounts for the extent to which someone can draw upon readily available solutions; the availability of assistance from the supervisor or others; and the ease with which the problems encountered can be defined and understood.


Mental effort: the concentration required to perform the work, usually measured in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration of the effort.

Physical effort: the physical effort required to perform the work, usually measured in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration.

Working Conditions

Disagreeable physical working conditions: the disagreeable physical working conditions associated with the work, often measured in terms of duration and frequency of exposure, including noise, dirt, and extremes of temperature.

Disagreeable psychological working conditions: the disagreeable psychological working conditions associated with the work, often measured in terms of duration and frequency of exposure, including conflicting priorities, emotional interactions with others and lack of privacy.        

Rating scale: this is a numerical scale used to measure the total value of a sub-factor. To put it in technical terms, a job is placed on the scale based on its degree of difficulty, intensity or frequency/duration. This is done using the factors and sub-factors identified above. For example, the rating scale for physical effort may include limited, moderate or considerable intensity. Each degree in the rating scale carries a numerical value. The total value of the job is represented by the sum of the point ratings assigned to the individual sub-factors.        

Factor/sub-factor weighting: each of the four factors in the plan carries a factor weight which represents its relative importance.  For example, the job evaluation plan may set aside 40% of the maximum points available under the plan to the Knowledge and Skills factors. Under this scenario, the Knowledge and Skills factor will carry a weight of 40%. This weighting is further broken down by sub-factor whereby the Communications sub-factor, for example, may carry a weight of 15% of the total number of points available under the job evaluation plan.      

Job description: a document that describes the responsibilities, duties, tasks and job requirements associated with a given job class. The job description is an important human resources document that serves several purposes, including the evaluation of the relative worth of the job. 

Job data questionnaire: a questionnaire administered to employees, often in the context of a pay equity exercise, in order collect data on the responsibilities, duties, tasks and job requirements associated with the work. The questionnaire may be used instead of a job description for pay equity purposes but, as is the case with job descriptions, must be sufficiently detailed to allow for the evaluation of the job against all factors and sub-factors in the job evaluation plan.

Pay equity plan: a document that represents the results of the work performed by a pay equity committee. It includes the job evaluation plan, a list of male and female dominated job classes and their point ratings, a list of the female dominated job classes for which pay equity adjustments are owed, as well as the amounts for these pay adjustments. The plan must be posted in an area that is accessible to all employees to which the plan applies.  

Notes to evaluators: instructions to evaluators on the way the job evaluation plan must be applied. This includes, where required, definitions of the terminology used in the pay equity plan. The application of notes to evaluators helps with the consistent application of the job evaluation plan.   

Job class: a class or group of jobs sharing the same or similar duties, the same or similar qualifications, and sharing the same compensation plan. 

Gender dominance: the dominant gender composition of job classes. For example, a job class for which incumbents are over 60% female, or a job class which is stereotypically female such as a nurse, will be female dominated. Conversely, a job class which is composed mostly of men, or a job class which is stereotypically male such as a plumber, will be male dominated. Job classes within which the dominant gender makes up less than 60% of the class are generally considered neutral.    

Pay equity maintenance plan: a compilation of the changes which have occurred within an employer’s establishment that have had an impact on the original pay equity plan in such a way as to change existing pay gaps. Pay equity maintenance plans must be completed at five-year intervals and must be posted in an area accessible to all employees subject to the maintenance plan. 


October 14, 2021