Women in NZ await future of Equal Pay Amendment Bill

Those fighting for pay equity may be facing a long road ahead

Women in NZ await future of Equal Pay Amendment Bill

Advocates of equal pay in New Zealand may have to hold on even longer before their calls for change come to fruition, according to Denise Lee, MP of Maungakiekie.

The delay, Lee pointed out, stems from a lack of clarity in the policy details – a task that falls on the shoulders of Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“Information released by the minister’s office showed he was still receiving briefings on policy issues with the bill regularly throughout the year, even into late October,” the MP said in December.

“Usually, the only changes made to a bill after introduction come from Select Committee, not from the minister,” she said. “This is an extraordinary example of incompetence.”

READ MORE: Why NZ should be the first country where women earn equal pay

‘Get on with it’
The Equal Pay Amendment Bill aims to “improve the process for raising and progressing pay equity claims” and – ultimately – to rid workplaces of gender bias in the remuneration and employment terms and conditions offered to workers in ‘female-dominated’ industries.

Because the country’s existing bargaining framework will be used as the basis for resolving pay equity claims, employees who lodge a complaint over unequal pay can expect a simpler review process – often without the need to take the errant employer to court.

“Under the bill, employers, workers and unions will negotiate in good faith, with access to mediation and resolution services available if they are unable to agree,” the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment notes.

While the government says it will continue to push for the bill, it is facing increasing pressure to act quickly: a recent report from Statistics New Zealand showed men in the country earn 9.3% more, on average, than women. 

“New Zealand is leading the world for pay equity and settlements, and we need to continue to ask what can be done better,” said Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter back in August.

Despite these efforts, however, Genter knows much more is needed to win the fight for equal pay.

For Lee, the government has to “get on with it.”

“How long are women going to have to wait for pay equity?” she said. “It’s already broken its promise to pass the bill by the end of the year. The least it can do is give New Zealand women a timeline of when it expects any progress to be made.”

Experts in New Zealand’s employment law will be discussing the future of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill at the HRD Employment Law Masterclass in Auckland on 11 March. Reserve your seat now. 

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