Pay equity is the same pay for different work which has the same or similar level of skill, responsibility, and efforts. Equal pay is the same pay for the same work, regardless of gender.
In certain occupations where the work is, or was, predominantly performed by women, wages have often been kept lower than occupations where the work has been performed predominantly by men.
Aotearoa New Zealand has a proud history of advancing equal rights. Since the early 20th century, women in New Zealand and around the world have fought for equal pay in the workforce.
The Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 introduced equal pay legislation in the public service ensuring women in the public sector were to be paid the same as men for doing the same work under the same conditions. This was followed by the Equal Pay Act 1972 which extended equal pay to the private sector. The 1972 Act outlawed discrimination in wage rates between men and women performing the same job.
The Equal Pay Act was amended in 2020 to replace the court-based approach to pay equity claims with an accessible process based on the existing bargaining framework in the Employment Relations Act. The Court of Appeal found that the Equal Pay Act not only required equal pay for men and women doing the same work, but required equal pay for men and women doing different work deemed to be of the same value.
Following this decision, forums involving government, business and unions on pay equity identified that legislative reform to allow for pay equity claims to be jointly resolved outside of court was required. This legislative change makes it easier for women to file pay equity claims with their employers, rather than having to go through the courts, and will assist employers in addressing those claims.
Work has been underway for a while in the public sector to address its pay gaps and equal pay. Manatū Wāhine has partnered with Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission on Te Rōpū Whakarite Utu Ira Tangata, the Equal Pay Taskforce.
Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission also has a dedicated pay equity team, Ohu Mahi Utu Ōrite Pay Equity Taskforce, who are responsible for developing and leading best practice guidance, support, and advice on the pay equity process.
Pay equity claims
Pay equity claims can be a powerful vehicle for closing gender, Māori, Pacific and ethnic pay gaps, particularly for vulnerable workforces.
As well as achieving pay rises, settled pay equity claims can also create opportunities for a workforce to gain access to more training or qualifications, funding grants, and new workforce condition regulations.
Te Kawa Mataaho has a range of resources on their website regarding the pay equity claim process, including Te Orowaru, a pay equity work assessment tool that helps recognise the value of cultural skills in work.
Employment New Zealand have also produced a range of resources to guide people through the pay equity process, including process maps, guidance on good practice, and what information can be shared in the process.