November 2022 Board of Health Meeting - Windsor and Essex County Living Wage Program Information Report

Meeting Document Type
Information Report
Windsor and Essex County Living Wage Program


Epidemiology & Evaluation and Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention


Novemeber 10, 2022


Windsor and Essex County Living Wage Program


Income inequality has been recognized as one of the most significant social determinants contributing to poor population health outcomes. As such, many communities across Ontario, nationally, and internationally have implemented living wage programs to raise awareness, encourage adoption, and advance healthy public policy. A living wage is the minimum amount a person must earn to afford to live and participate in a specific community. In a general sense, it uses a calculation for family living expenses, relative to income from employment or government sources, and deductions from things like Employment Insurance (EI), Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums, and Federal/Provincial taxes. A living wage is not the same as the minimum wage, which is the lowest rate an employer can legally pay for work performed.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) has led the Windsor and Essex County Living Wage program since 2017 and has since certified 35 living wage employers, which are employers that pay their direct staff (full-time and part-time) the living wage in a given year. Certified living wage employers maintain their status for a period of two years and must reapply to be re-certified for another two-year cycle. Certified living wage employers proudly display the “Certified Living Wage” window decal to encourage other businesses to follow suit and often use that as a selling point in recruiting and retaining staff. The overarching goal of this program is to raise awareness about the minimum salary a person would need to earn to have a greater chance of having a basic standard of living in Windsor and Essex County. The program encourages local employers to be a part of the solution and also works to advance policies, partnerships, and practices that promote health and well-being for the community.

For the first time, the Ontario Living Wage Network embarked on developing a first full coverage of the province in living wage rates in 2022. The resulting 10 wage rates reflect “Economic Regions” that can include multiple jurisdictions. Windsor and Essex County are part of the Southwest Economic Region, which includes the Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent regions. Local data is still sourced from individual communities to develop this shared calculation.

Each year the living wage calculation is updated and shared with the community. The living wage calculation report is intended to provide an overview of the Living Wage, how it is calculated, and the assumptions that are made in the calculations. The 2022 Living Wage calculated for the Southwest Economic Region is $18.15/hour for full and part-time employees. This represents a 9.3% per hour increase over the 2021 Living Wage. Table 1 highlights the local living wage rates compared to the minimum wage rates from 2018 to 2022. Historically, local living wage rates have been higher than the provincial minimum wage rate as the living wage takes into account the actual cost of living in a particular community by considering the cost of food, clothing, shelter, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, recreation, and expenses associated with breaks from work. Worth noting is that, the minimum wage often is too low to lift someone working full-time above the poverty line and the living wage aims to address this.

Table 1: Living Wage compared to Minimum Wage over time.
  2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Living Wage in WEC $14.81 $15.15 $15.52 $16.60 $18.15
Minimum Wage $14.00 $14.00 $14.25 $14.35 $15.50
Difference -$0.81 -$1.15 -$1.27 -$2.25 -$2.65


In order to reach more local employers, enhance promotional capacity, and provide consistency for employers who operate in multiple regions of the province, the WECHU has partnered with the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN). In this partnership, the OLWN will be responsible for the certification of local living wage employers at a provincial level, while providing them consistent support in developing and promoting their living wage policies. The WECHU will continue to provide the annual local calculation to OLWN to ensure the local costs are reflected on an annual basis.

Beginning in 2023, the new process for certification will be as follows:

  1. Expression of Interest. Local employers will complete the initial contact form through the OLWN. The manager of the OLWN employer program will contact the employer to discuss certification details and answer questions. 
  2. Application Review and License Agreement. OLWN review the details of the application and contact the employer to address any questions and determine the level of recognition. The employer will then sign the license agreement and pay the employer certification fee.
  3. Certificate Presentation. Once a year, through the local Healthy Workplace Awards ceremony, certified living wage employers will be recognized and provided with their Living Wage certificate.
  4. Recognition. OLWN will publicly recognize the organization or business through social media, events, and publications. The business or organization will be listed in the OLWN employer directory and map.
  5. Periodic Review. Each year on the anniversary of the certification, the employers will be sent a renewal survey and invoice for the annual employer certification fee. When the living wage calculation is updated in our community, the OLWN will contact the employers to let them know the new rate. Employers have six months to make adjustments once the new rate has been announced.