More accessible pay equity measures come into force

Employees in female-dominated occupations now have a clearer pathway to pay equity, with changes to New Zealand’s Equal Pay Act coming into force today, says Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Wood, and Minister for Women Jan Tinetti.                                                       

Currently, there are more than 86,000 New Zealanders progressing 15 pay equity claims in education, health and the public sector. In the last term of Government, 23,600 employees have received a pay equity settlement. Pay Equity settlements have seen up to 30 per cent pay increases for claimants.

“The Equal Pay Amendment Act passed unanimously in July, creating an accessible process to work through pay equity claims. This is one of the biggest gains for gender equity in the workplace since the Equal Pay Act 1972,” says Jan Tinetti.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the many workers who do important work but who are not well or fairly paid for it. By working towards pay equity for women and increasing wages, we’re helping everyone to share in the benefits of our economic plan as we recover and rebuild,” says Michael Wood.

“Business New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions worked constructively with Government develop this law, and the unanimous support from Parliament shows how important achieving pay equity is. I want to acknowledge Kristine Bartlett and E Tū for blazing the trail and helping us reach this consensus.

“The new law is a win-win – it establishes an easier and clear process for unions and individual employees to raise a pay equity claim directly with an employer. Employers, employees and unions will negotiate in good faith, with access to mediation and resolution services if dispute resolution support is needed.

“Most people do not want to take their employer to court if they can avoid it. The new process aligns with the bargaining process in the Employment Relations Act 2000, and encourages collaboration and evidence-based decision making to address pay inequity, rather than relying on an adversarial court process,” says Michael Wood.

Jan Tinetti says the changes to the Equal Pay Act are significant for women in Aotearoa, and will impact the lives of those working in some of the lowest-paid occupations.

“Employers already have a duty not to pay people differently on the basis of sex. No one should be paid less just because they work in a female-dominated occupation.

“Achieving pay equity and putting more money in the hands of the lowest paid workers has a significant positive impact on their lives, and is likely to have flow-on benefits to their whānau and the wider community.

“This Government is taking action to ensure women are paid fairly. We are delivering for women by passing pay equity legislation, delivering record pay settlements for female dominated workforces, and closing the gender pay gap with the Action Plan in the public sector,” says Jan Tinetti.

“A modern and more effective system for dealing with pay equity claims is long overdue. We’re going to watch the rollout of this new law closely to make sure it delivers, it’s just one more step in a long journey towards gender equality,” says Michael Wood.

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