20,000 frontline health workers to get pay rise

Government continues push for pay parity across sector

20,000 frontline health workers to get pay rise

About 20,000 frontline community health workers across New Zealand will be getting a pay rise as part of the government’s push for pay parity across the sector.

"I'm pleased to announce that Cabinet has agreed to ongoing funding of $200 million a year so that thousands of workers in places such as aged-care facilities, hospices, and Māori and Pacific health-care organisations can be paid more," says health minister Andrew Little.

A total of $40 million will be made available to employers in the remainder of this financial year, while the $200 million will be granted a year after that. The funding will go to private and non-government employers, who will be required to use the money to fix the pay difference between them and public hospitals.

"Aged-care facilities, hospices, homecare support, and Māori and Pacific healthcare organisations will be first, because there is clear evidence that that is where the biggest pay gap is," says Little.

The minister added that he expects the contracts of private and non-government employers with Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority to be changed in the first part of next year as part of the funding boost

This will be followed by mental health and addiction facilities, organisations caring for the disabled and other types of residential care, and then other government-funded health services.

Employers struggling

"Today's announcement is good news for the estimated 20,000 people who will get a pay rise, and for the organisations employing them, which have struggled to keep staff when they can't afford to pay as much as Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand is offering. I know this has made it very hard for them to retain nurses," says Little. 

However, the package will not have a significant impact for those working in GP practices due to lack of "real evidence" of pay difference from the data provided by the Nurses Organisation and the GP organisation GenPro, she says.

"The funding is ongoing, though, and that decision could change if evidence of disparity emerges in the future.”

‘Goes a long way’

The latest government investment fulfills the promise of Little back in 2020 to address pay parity for aged care nurses.

"We are so pleased the government has made good on the promise," says Simon Wallace, CEO of the NZ Aged Care Association, in a statement, as the funding boost will "go a long way" in addressing issues faced by the sector.

"Achieving pay parity with Te Whatu Ora hospital nurses means the aged residential care sector will now be on a level playing field to attract and retain registered nurses," Wallace said.

The latest investment from the government came after it recently extended its pay equity deal to over 4,000 social workers in November. According to Little, they are currently negotiating pay-equity agreements with midwives, allied health workers, as well as homecare and support workers in the country.

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