- We can all take pride in these agreed principles. We are now closer along the path to achieving equal pay for work of equal value than we ever have been before.
- New Zealand has led the world in equality when in 1893 women won the right to vote. We can still be world leaders, this time in equal pay.
- The agreement of these principles means that the Equal Pay Act 1972 is now able to better meet its purpose of ensuring that women are fairly paid for their work.
- These principles are to be celebrated as a huge achievement and a way to move us closer to correcting the imbalance in pay.
- We now have a framework, a set of principles, which provide a constructive and orderly way forward.
- The principles will help the Kristine Bartlett case to make progress to deliver equal pay for caregivers.
- Forward thinking employers will welcome these principles. They are a tangible framework to assist employers meet their obligations as a good employers.
- Government agencies will need to be resourced to ensure they can support employers and working people to achieve an equal pay resolution as quickly and as easily as possible.
Frequently asked questions
What lead to today’s announcement?
Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett took a landmark case under the Equal Pay Act 1972, successfully arguing that low pay in aged care is as a result of historic gender-based pay discrimination, and that the Equal Pay Act applies to this situation. The case went all the way to New Zealand’s highest court, the Supreme Court. It follows decades of equal pay activism.
Before the court case concluded, the government initiated two sets of discussions.
The first, was equal pay negotiations to settle the Bartlett case outside of court. These talks cover workers in aged and disability residential care, and home and support services. Negotiations are ongoing. If they are unsuccessful, the case will return to court.
The second, was a Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles. Section 9 of the Equal Pay Act gives the court the role of determining general principles to be observed for the implementation of equal pay, in order to guide parties in negotiations. The purpose of the Joint Working Group was to agree on some principles to add into the Equal Pay Act.
What do the principles say?
The principles outline the steps workers take to the raising and resolution of an equal pay claim where the work is predominantly performed by women. They provide that any employee or group of employees can raise an equal pay claim and outline the factors which the employer and the courts must take into account when assessing the merits of the claim.
These include factors which may point to undervaluation of the work such as the history of the work, labelling of the work as “women’s work” and anything where women are considered to have “natural” or “inherent” qualities.
The principles include the process used to assess equal pay claims. A thorough and comprehensive assessment of the work being performed is required including the skills, responsibilities, effort and conditions that are commonly over-looked or undervalued like social and communication skills, responsibility for the wellbeing of others, emotional effort, cultural knowledge and sensitivity.
The assessment can also include identifying and examining appropriate comparators which may be male comparators performing work which is the same or similar or aspects of which are the same or similar to the work being examined. The principles also include steps to settling an equal pay claim which must include pay which has no element of gender-based differentiation, free from systematic undervaluation and must not reduce other terms of employment. The principles also require that equal pay be reviewed and kept current.
How will this help the Kristine Bartlett case, and other cases?
The principles will help the Bartlett case by giving guidance to workers and employers, by setting out the principles to be observed to implement equal pay in caregiving work. The principles will also help in implementing equal pay in other occupations where gender-based pay discrimination may exist.
Some useful references
Joint Working Group principles:
(Link to be added when they are published online at http://ssc.govt.nz)
Joint Working Group terms of reference:
History of equal pay activism in New Zealand:
NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi
PO Box 6645, Marion Square, Wellington 6141, New Zealand.