Was New Zealand ‘trounced’ by Australia?

New legislation deals with 'most pressing issue of our time,' says HR expert

Was New Zealand ‘trounced’ by Australia?

Australia has “trounced” New Zealand when it comes to addressing the inequality of pay gaps, according to Dellwyn Stuart and Jo Cribb, co-founders of MindTheGap, a pay gap registry.

“Losing to Australia in any field doesn’t sit comfortably with New Zealanders but falling behind on something as important as paying us all equitably is an embarrassment for a country that was first to give women the vote,” Cribb said in a press release.

“Australia is following international best practice that shows that countries, where businesses are required to report pay gaps, are more likely to succeed in closing the gap. If you measure your pay gap, you are more likely to question why you have one and do something about it.”

The comments came after Wednesday’s announcement from Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese that Australia was legislating pay gap reporting in organisations with over 100 employees – something Stuart and Cribb have been advocating for after launching their pay-gap registry in March last year.

They are calling on Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to support his Minister for Women Jan Tinetti to follow Australia’s example. MindTheGap has also issued an almost 9000-person-strong petition to parliament calling on the government to address ethnic and gender pay gaps.

‘Surprising’ move

The new Australian legislation is a move in the right direction and will put pressure on the NZ government to introduce pay gap legislation, according to HR consultant Stephanie Love, but she added, “Aotearoa is quite progressive so seeing Australia implement it before NZ is surprising, particularly with a majority labour government.”

Love said she is concerned that an election year in Aotearoa will put pay gap legislation on the back burner but is hopeful this won’t be the case.

“This is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and if the government is serious about supporting NZs with the increased cost of living, particularly for more marginalised NZs, then I would expect to see the government prioritise introducing pay gap reporting in Aotearoa this year,” she said.

Strategic Pay's third annual Pay Equity analysis revealed that $17.6 billion, or 11% of wages and salaries, are lost as a result of gender and ethnic pay gaps.

The government announced last October that it had asked the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women to provide advice on pay transparency tools that will support businesses to identify gender and ethnic pay gaps and the measures that can be taken to reduce the gaps.

“What more proof does the government need?” said Cribb. “Businesses have led the way by registering their pay gap reporting. We have presented a petition signed by almost 9000 New Zealanders, a poll that shows 75% of kiwis want mandatory reporting. Charities and unions have told us how urgent this is.”

‘Beyond gender’

“The mechanism already exists for the government to implement reporting,” added Love. “It has required the public sector to report their gender pay gaps since 2020 and more recently they’ve been recording their ethnic pay gaps as well.”

“I believe it’s important that when this bill is brought to parliament, that it extends beyond just gender,” she said. “It should also focus on pay inequality by ethnicity, rainbow identity, and ability, as the intersectionality of these characteristics can mean some people are more disadvantaged compared to others in more than one way.”

Love said businesses have a moral obligation to support gender and ethnic equality but there are also many benefits for organisations to implement public reporting; for instance, a recent poll found that 95% of the Gen Z workforce would prefer to work for an organisation that publishes their pay gaps.

But for many businesses, it’s a matter of simply not knowing. “Many organisations I have connected with in the past tell me they don’t have pay gaps — but they don’t measure them, so how would they know?” she said.

“It’s OK to have pay gaps; some organisations I know that publicly report their pay gaps have a 50% gender pay gap. The important part is what actions will be taken to address these pay gaps and remove barriers to women and ethnic minorities being promoted into higher paying roles – which is the majority of the cause of pay gaps.”

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