While sharing salary information is often discouraged by employers, in the province of British Columbia, Canada, are employers legally allowed to punish (e.g. fire, reprimand, etc.) an employee who shares wage/salary information with their colleagues? Is there legislation that prevents this and would that legislation overrule any potentially conflicting clauses in an employment contract?

Note that a very similar question was asked previously regarding laws in Canada. However, most employment is regulated provincially and, at the time of writing, the only answer to that question relies on a law from a different province (Ontario) and so is not relevant in BC.

For the purpose of this question, you are welcome to assume that the employer/employee is not in a federally regulated industry (i.e. that they are in a provincially regulated industry).

  • It might not be illegal but discussing salary is probably not work-related so if you and a colleague dwell on salary for 10 hours a week then then you could get in trouble for not performing your expected tasks.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 19:17
  • @MonkeyZeus "you could get in trouble for not performing your expected tasks." That is an entirely different issue that can happen regardless of whether the topic is work-related: football, arts, the economy, disagreements on how to do the job, singing a song, religion, allergies caused by the colleague's perfume, mathematics, etc. But that is not what the OP asked. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 9:07

4 Answers 4


are employers legally allowed to punish (e.g. fire, reprimand, etc.) an employee who shares wage/salary information with their colleagues?

No. Section 8 of the BC Labour Relations Code preserves for the employee "the freedom to communicate to an employee a statement of fact [...] with respect to the employer's business". More conclusively, section 64 entitles a person to disclose --except for purposes of picketing-- "information [...] relating to terms or conditions of employment or work done or to be done by that person". Wage/salary information clearly is a condition of employment.

the only answer to that question relies on a law from a different province (Ontario) and so is not relevant in BC.

That answer is relevant to Canada (also the question was about Canada). That answer cites a statute from Ontario because that is the jurisdiction that the asker specified. It would be tiresome as well as futile to provide the statutory equivalent of every province on a matter that the provinces are very unlikely to legislate materially differently.

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    Regarding provinces being unlikely to legislate this differently--I'm afraid that's a judgment that is very country-specific as well. In the US, states have considerable variability in worker protection laws; it would not be immediately obvious to a US observer that Canadian provinces would be consistent in this matter. Would it be tiresome to answer the question for every province? Probably! But the futility may be more in the eye of the beholder.
    – Tiercelet
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 15:27
  • @Tiercelet "In the US, states have considerable variability in worker protection laws". Even if that is accurate, prohibiting an employee to disclose his salary is unlawful also in the jurisdictions of the U.S. both at the federal and state levels. Some examples are section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act (see D & D Distribution v. N.L.R.B., 801 F.2d 636, 639-640 (1986), section 1197.5(k)(1) of the California Labor Code, and MCL 408.483a in Michigan Wages and Fringe Benefits Act. Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 22:58
  • Thank you for your response and for the link to a specific and relevant statute. I believe this answers the question and so I've marked your response as accepted. My comment regarding your answer to the question I linked to merely highlights that the question I'm asking had not already been answered. Given the similarities, I wanted to ensure that my question was not mistakenly marked as a duplicate and closed. My statements were factually true and appropriate for the context. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 4:59
  • To clarify, an employer can simply ask (or tell) an employee not to discuss wages. They just can enforce it. Commented Oct 11, 2021 at 9:08
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    This answer is a gross misinterpretation of the Labour Relations Code. Let's look at the full text of Section 8: "Nothing in this Code deprives a person of the freedom to communicate to an employee a statement of fact or opinion reasonably held with respect to the employer's business." This says nothing about whether an employment contract can limit an employee's freedom to communicate; only this act itself. Section 64 just clarifies that conveying information doesn't count as picketing.
    – Tweek
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 1:42

Wage information is confidential: but only on the employer

In Australia, an employer must keep the remuneration of their employees confidential (subject to legal disclosure requirements).

However, employees can take out full-page ads in the newspaper about them if they want. Whether such information is disclosed or discussed within a workplace or more broadly is cultural, not legal.

An employer attempting to discipline an employee for disclosing or discussing their remuneration would be breaking the law.

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    Which law would they break? Just because the law does not punish employees for taking out full-page ads in the newspaper, that fact alone doesn't mean others couldn't. There are many cases where employees were fired for saying things in public, which were not per se illegal to say, but were contrary to the employer's political views.
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 15:12
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    @vsz political views are protected in Australia. Perhaps it’s the “land of the free” you’re thinking of - such persecution is legal there.
    – Dale M
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 20:15
  • Ideological views, then. Is there really absolutely no opinion in Australia you can utter which won't land you in jail, but employers can fire you for that?
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 20:17
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    @vsz An employer in Australia can only fire you in cases of genuine redundancy or misconduct (which requires 3 warnings) or gross misconduct. Expressing certain opinions might be misconduct or even gross misconduct if it damages the employer. For example, civil servants can be dismissed if the state opinions critical of specific government policy related to their employment.
    – Dale M
    Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 20:23
  • The question is specifically about British Columbia. I have since updated the question to clarify British Columbia, Canada. Unless there's a place in Australia called "British Columbia" that led to confusion, then this response does not attempt to answer the question that was asked. Commented Oct 2, 2021 at 5:01

In many countries, this would directly conflict with the legal requirement that equal work be equally payed.

One of the very reasons why it was (or often still is) a fact that men earn more for the same job than women, is because salaries are kept secret. If it was illegal to share information about ones earnings, this could not be counteracted on. The employees need to have a way of telling whether their wage is fair compared to what others get for a similar job.

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    There is no requirement for equal work to be equally paid, though you can't pay less to people just because they're of a certain race/sex/sexual orientation/etc. What you're describing usually applies to government jobs where each worker is paid using a strictly defined salary book. Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 20:08
  • @JonathanReez In a good many jurisdictions there is such a requirement, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_pay_for_equal_work For canada see canada.ca/en/services/jobs/workplace/human-rights.html Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 20:32
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    @DavidSiegel these requirements are focused on sex/race based discrimination, not literal equal pay for the same work. So you can pay $100/hour for 50% of your workers and $50/hour to the other 50% as long as both halves have similar distributions of men/women. Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 20:58
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    @PMF not true. It could simply be because some employees are better at negotiating during their interview or yearly review. And yes - this often leads to employee discontent which is why employers don’t want you to share your salary. But legally speaking that is a-okay. Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 15:10
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    @PMF "being upset" is easy. Quitting is hard and inconvenient for most people. I can tell you from personal experience in tech companies that people do know pay differences exist (I'm talking 30-50% difference between people within the same role, same responsibilities, same skillset, etc) but they won't necessarily quit as a result - and that's despite having a lot of job opportunities. Commented Oct 1, 2021 at 18:43

I called the BC Employment Standards Act and spoke with an Info Line agent about this topic. According to the agent, private (non-federally regulated and non-unionized) companies are governed by the ESA and there is nothing in the ESA preventing a company from stipulating in their HR policy that employees maintain salary confidentiality. As such, presumably you could be terminated with just cause and therefore not be provided with any type of termination compensation if you do disclose salary information. The BC Labour Code (which governs unions) and the Canadian Labour Code (which governs federally-regulated businesses) supposedly both have provisions for employees and their freedom to speak. It's disappointing that the ESA is different.

I have not myself read the ESA in its entirety, but trusting the agent's interpretation to be correct. The ESA agent suggested to me to write to the Minister of Labour and to my local MLA to promote for change in the ESA. If anyone has additional input on this topic, I would welcome it.

  • The agent's response seems inaccurate. The definitions of employee, employer, and person in the BC Labour Relations Code are devoid of any indication requiring a unionized status (in the definition of person a trade union is just one of multiple types of person). By contrast, both LRC and ESA are explicit where the legislative intent is to exclude other legislation. For instance, ESA at §105(3) denies the protections of LRC to a subset of employees. Likewise, LRC in its definition of person excludes anyone whose "collective bargaining is regulated by the Canada Labour Code". Commented May 26, 2022 at 14:10
  • @IñakiViggers You are correct that the LRC does not in general require an employee to be unionized for its provisions to apply. For example, it prohibits an employer from interfering with the creation of a union, which would obviously be problematic if its protections did not extend to non-unionized workers. The fact remains, however, that nothing in the LRC restricts the ability of an employer to prohibit employees from discussing salary, or from punishing an employee who breaches such. Note that I am not saying that such a clause would necessarily be enforceable.
    – Tweek
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 22:48

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