Human resources professionals in Ottawa say potential new legislation on hiring could have positive impacts for both employers and employees, although concerns remain.
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Human resources professionals in Ottawa say potential new legislation on hiring could have positive impacts for both employers and employees, although concerns remain. Last week, the province announced that it will introduce legislation on hiring practices that, if passed, would require employers to include expected salary ranges in job postings. Employers would also have to disclose to applicants if artificial intelligence is used during the process. The move is aimed at improving transparency and addressing wage gaps for marginalized workers, according to David Piccini, the province’s minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development. “At a time when many companies are posting record profits, it is only fair they communicate transparently about how they pay workers,” Piccini said in a news release. “And as the use of artificial intelligence in Ontario skyrockets, our government will continue to take action to ensure workers aren’t excluded from the job market because of technological biases and that their privacy rights are protected.” According to the release, only 37 per cent of job postings in Ontario in 2022 included salary information, adding that including that information “can help close the gender pay gap while allowing companies to find qualified candidates more quickly and improve retention.” Kathryn Tremblay, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa-based company Altis Recruiting and Technology, said the legislation comes with both benefits and drawbacks for employers. On the plus side, she said sharing salary ranges could be a major timesaver for candidates and employers. “When you’re the job-searcher, I think it could definitely be beneficial, strictly on the basis of time,” she said. “Job titles are often inaccurate and the salary range can provide a little bit of clarity on how senior the job actually is. It gives the applicant a chance to understand a bit more the value of the job.” For hiring managers, she said it can cut down on the number of applicants, which isn’t a bad thing when hundreds of candidates are applying. “You put a job out there with no salary range, everyone’s going to apply, but not everyone will be interested,” she said. “By narrowing down the salary, (candidates) decide they’re not going to apply if it’s outside of their range. It narrows the pool to a more concise group and speeds up the work for the hiring manager to get the right hire.” Providing salary information could also have benefits for newcomers, who may not know what kind of wage to ask for if it’s their first time applying to a position in Canada, she added. While the legislation has the potential to address wage discrimination for women and racialized candidates, it’s hard to know just how effective it will be until it’s in place, she argued. And despite the positives, Tremblay expects the legislation to bring some pain for employers, especially for smaller companies and non-profit organizations that struggle to compete for candidates. “It certainly favours the most prosperous companies,” she said. “Any organization with really deep pockets could really inflate their offerings to get the best candidates.” She added that, for some positions, even employers don’t fully know what they’re looking for, which can make it difficult to narrow down a range. “Not every role is perfectly defined,” she said. “We’re often asked by our clients to find a candidate who can do a whole mix of things and the job titles may be very ill-defined. Without a perfect job title or salary range, we go out and look for candidates with a range of experience. The candidate market defines what our outcome is and what it’s valued at. That happens more often than you think.” Jillian Moores, an HR consultant with QUO HR Consulting in Ottawa, said the move is a “positive step in the right direction” for job-seekers. “This is not new; there have been a couple of attempts in terms of policy change for pay transparency,” she said. “Hiding pay really only protects employers. Having to post pay means that employers are actually influenced to do their due diligence in terms of comparing and benchmarking salary data, instead of just throwing out an arbitrary number.” Moores said that many of the clients she works with are typically transparent about pay and already share salary ranges on their job postings. And while some employers may be hesitant, she said establishing internal structures to evaluate potential hires can make the process easier, especially for positions with broad qualifications. “The way to do it is to have a set of skills you’d be looking for based on the range of pay. So someone in the $90,000 range is going to come in with x amount of skills and x years of services. So at the $95,000 range, they come in with different qualifications, years of service, and maybe a specific type of experience in the industry,” she said. “There’s worry when that process isn’t set up yet. So it’s a step in the right direction to make sure that’s happening before going in to find candidates.” Legislation would require disclosure of AI use In addition to salary information, employers would be required to disclose to candidates if AI is used during the hiring process. AI use has accelerated in the past year, as generative AI programs like ChatGPT rolled out to the general public. Employers have joined in, using AI to automate portions of the hiring process. In February, Statistics Canada reported that seven per cent of Ontario businesses said they were planning to adopt AI technologies over the next 12 months. According to Moores, privacy is the biggest concern in discussions about AI use in the hiring process. “What’s really important is protecting the privacy rights of employees and candidates,” she said. “You really want to make sure that’s intact and respected. If AI plays in, I want to make sure to set from the start a sort of compliance or policy standpoint internally — disclosing how this information is going to be used and where it’s going to be stored.” For many employers, AI remains a mystery. Because the technology is so new and evolving quickly every day, Tremblay said it could be difficult to legislate for the time being. “At this point, I don’t think any of us know exactly what we mean by AI,” she said. “How we perceive what AI is and then how we describe to the public that we have a procedure over how AI is being used is somewhat challenging because a lot of the time we don't even know.” Without clear-cut definitions and well thought-out regulations, she said employers may struggle to adhere to the legislation. “For example, we use a broad set of recruitment tools and some have built-in AI, but we may not even know what is being used. AI is embedded in everything, so how do you define responsible use when you don’t necessarily know it’s in the background? I don’t think we’re ready yet to describe how it is we are handling or using AI as it relates to our candidates,” she said. “The government might need to do a little bit more to determine some of the outcomes and put in place policies that protect our workplaces.”