New “equal pay for equal work” rules are now in effect in Ontario, which require that part-time, casual, and seasonal employees be paid the same rate as their full-time colleagues if they perform the same job.

The new rules came into effect on April 1 and are part of the province’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act -- the same legislation that raised the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 an hour on Jan. 1.

The provision now in effect makes the province the first jurisdiction in North America to require equal pay for part-time employees.

The new rules amend the province's Employment Standards Act to state that employers cannot pay a part-time or temporary worker less than the rate paid to full-time employees if they perform “substantially the same kind of work”, and if their performance requires “substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility” and if “their work is performed under similar working conditions.”

The legislation allows for exemptions based on seniority, merit, or a “system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.”

The Ontario government has said the new rules are meant to protect temporary workers, noting that over the past 40 years, part-time work has grown to represent nearly 20 per cent of total employment.

Under the new rules, all employees are entitled to request a review of their pay rate if they believe that they are not receiving equal pay to full-time or permanent employees.

The employer is required to respond to the request with either an adjustment in pay, or a written explanation for the discrepancy.

The new act also protects workers against any repercussions for inquiring about their pay rate or asking other employees about their wage.

Temp agencies, or Temporary Help Agencies are also affected by the new rules. They must now ensure that temporary employees are paid the same as full-time employees of the agency client when performing substantially the same job.

The province has noted over the last 20 years, temporary help agencies have become “ubiquitous,” giving rise to a host of concerns, including the phenomenon of “perma-temps,” in which workers are offered consecutive contracts rather than full-time jobs so they can be paid a lower rate with no benefits.