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Alarming gap in working Canadians' understanding around paycheque details, reveals new Payments Canada study

Nearly half (46%) of Canadians say they pay more attention to the weather than their paycheque details; 38% unlikely to spot an employer's pay discrepancy

Key study findings

  • 47% of working Canadians pay more attention to their social media channels than pay details
  • 35% find reviewing their pay information daunting
  • 34% only focus on pay details when it’s time to file their taxes
  • 23% would feel uncomfortable asking their employer to explain income deduction details on their pay statement 
  • 31% say they are interested in ‘payment on demand’

OTTAWA, August 9, 2022 — With around $971 billion paid in annual wages and benefits to Canadians, and a complex and evolving array of deductions, it’s inevitable that on occasion mistakes and discrepancies can happen. According to new research commissioned by Payments Canada, many working Canadians do not feel well-equipped in understanding their pay statements with 38% who think it is unlikely they would catch any discrepancies.

For many, reviewing their employee payment information is intimidating (35%) but the prospect of asking their employer to explain their pay statement is uncomfortable or embarrassing (23%). The newly released research reveals a number of trends and insights around how employed Canadians receive their paycheque and their approach to making sense of their pay.

“We continue to see evolving technology innovations shaping how and when Canadians pay and get paid, fuelled by a demand for speed, efficiency, convenience, and security,” said Kristina Logue, Chief Financial Officer of Payments Canada. “Paper cheques are becoming more obsolete, with most Canadians now being paid electronically via direct deposit. But while employers are leveraging payment channels that offer more convenience and ease in how employees receive their paycheques, many Canadians are silently struggling to decipher their pay details and are taking a ‘hope for the best’ approach to accuracy. This points to a huge opportunity for employers to help employees navigate and better understand the anatomy of their paycheque.”

Majority of working Canadians don’t pay a lot of attention to their pay statements: More than half (57%) of Canadians say they don't pay a lot of attention to the income and deduction amounts on each pay statement. Half (50%) report that they check the amount that hits their bank account — but not the pay statement details around their income and deductions. Over one in three (34%) only focus on their income details when it comes time to file their taxes.

Employed Canadians divided between those that plan ahead versus those that have no plan around how their paycheque will be used: More than half (55%) of working Canadians say they map out how they will spend, save or invest for each paycheque; conversely, 45% report having no plan in advance of receiving their paycheque.

Many employees struggle to make sense of their pay details — and are unlikely to spot a discrepancy: About one-in-three (35%) Canadians say they don't fully understand all the details on their pay statement but assume it is correct. When it comes to spotting any type of discrepancy with their pay statement, 38% say it is unlikely they would notice if there was any issue or error.

Nearly half of Canadians say they pay more attention to the weather or their social media channels than their pay details: For many employees, despite the importance of their income details, paying attention to each pay statement is not always considered a matter of priority. In fact, nearly half (47%) of Canadians say they pay more attention to their social media channels than they do their pay statement details, and 46% indicate that they pay more attention to checking the weather.

Many employees express discomfort seeking pay information from their employer: While about one in three (35%) employed Canadians say they find reviewing their financial information daunting, many are reluctant to seek clarification or support. More than one in five (23%) say they would feel uncomfortable or embarrassed asking their employer to explain the income and deduction details on their pay statement.

Vast majority of working Canadians are paid via direct deposit: When it comes to how Canadian workers receive their paycheques, the vast majority report receiving payment electronically. Overall, 88% of employed Canadians report being paid via direct deposit, while six per cent receive payment via paper cheque and three per cent by E-transfer.

Nearly one in four working Canadians have more than one source of income: The research revealed that nearly one-quarter of Canadians (24%) have more than one source of income. Of those that have a second income source, this includes income from investments (32%); having a second job (30%); gig economy/side hustle (26%).

Opportunity for employers to proactively help educate employees on navigating their paycheque:  When asked about the opportunity to change any aspect around how they get paid by their employer, the number one consideration cited by working Canadians was for employers to do a better job of proactively helping them understand the specific details on their pay statements and how the income and various deductions work (19%). Other changes that employees cite include having all their financial information, including income and pay statement information, T4s, etc., in one centralized, secure hub for easy access (15%); receive pay on a more frequent basis (11%). That being said, about three in five (58%) of working Canadians would not change anything and are generally satisfied with how and when they receive their paycheques.

On-demand pay of interest to many Canadians: On-demand pay is an emerging pay platform where employees can access a portion of their earned wages on-demand as work has been accrued, versus needing to wait until payday. For example, employees could access anything from $50 to a full day or two days' pay in advance of a scheduled payday, if they have already worked against that time and/or amount. While only three per cent of employed Canadians report that they currently use on-demand pay, 31% say they would be interested if it were offered by their employee.

“Understanding payroll details is complex. It’s not something most of us learn at school,” said Logue. “But now — more than ever — we have access to technology innovations that offer ease of access to pay-related financial information. There is no doubt that we will continue to see new innovations evolve in this space, but it’s important that Canadians feel empowered in understanding how their income and deductions work on their paycheque - regardless of how they receive it.”

About the study

The online study was conducted by Angus Reid Forum on behalf of Payments Canada from June 30 – July 6, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of 1,503 full-time and part-time employed Canadians, balanced and weighted on age, gender and region. For comparison purposes only, samples of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey was offered in both English and French.

About Payments Canada

Payments Canada is a public purpose organization that owns and operates Canada's payment systems, Lynx and the Automated Clearing Settlement System (ACSS). Payments Canada is responsible for the physical infrastructure and the associated by-laws, rules, and standards that support these systems. It also has a duty to promote the efficiency, safety, and soundness of Canada's payment systems while taking into account the interests of end users. In 2021, Payments Canada's systems cleared and settled over $135 trillion — more than $539 billion every business day. Transactions that pass through these systems include debit card payments, pre-authorized debits, direct deposits, bill payments, wire payments and cheques initiated and received by Canadians and Canadian businesses. Payments Canada is working closely with the payment ecosystem to modernize Canada's payment systems to ensure Canada and Canadian businesses remain globally competitive.

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