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Equal Pay Amendment Bill

Published 17 Aug 2020

New Zealanders working in female-dominated professions will have a clearer pathway for pay equity with the passing of the Equal Pay Amendment Bill from 11:59pm 23rd of July 2020, say Minister for Workplace Relations, Andrew Little, and Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.

“No one should be paid less just because they work in a female-dominated occupation - this is one of the biggest gains for gender equity in the workplace since the Equal Pay Act 1972,” Julie Anne Genter is quoted saying.
“Most people do not want to take their employer to court if they can avoid it. This Bill makes it easier to raise a pay equity claim, and encourages collaboration and evidence-based decision making to address pay inequity, rather than relying on an adversarial court process,” says Andrew Little.

The Bill's main objective will be to allow employees in female dominate professions to make a pay equity claim using a process based on New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework. The Bill therefore lowers the bar for employees initiating a pay equity claim against their employer.

The Bill further highlights the issue of “female-dominated industries” that had an inherent pay discrepancy due to having mostly female employees. The amendment states that it applies to workforces that are approximately 60% women.

Now parties will negotiate, in good faith and can utilise dispute resolution services such as mediation to resolve the disputes. The current Act (Equal Pay Act 1972) relies on the courts to make a determination but with the new Bill, court will be seen as the last resort.
The NZ Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) participation was significant in developing and passing the legislation and their involvement will continue in implementing the same. They will be a ubiquitous third party in these disputes, acting as the driving force for most disputes.

By creating this bargaining framework in line with the Employment Relations Act 2000, parties to these disputes have a clear and easier way of addressing systemic gender inequality.

The dispute resolution process will look like this;

  1. An employee (or group of employees who perform the same or similar work) submits a arguable written pay equity claim to their employer at any time.
  2. A pay equity claim will be arguable only if:
    • the claim relates to work that is or was predominantly performed by female employees; and
    • it is arguable that the work is currently undervalued, or has been historically undervalued.
  3. Within 45 working days of receiving the claim the employer must respond to the claim confirming whether the employer agrees there is an arguable pay equity issue, or whether the employer considers the claim is inarguable and provide the necessary supporting evidence of their decision.
  4. The employee is entitled to request further information about the employer’s decision and refer the claim to mediation services for resolution.
  5. The parties may also refer the claim for facilitation or determination in the Employment Relations Authority, however that should be done as a last resort, given the focus on negotiation, collaboration and good faith within the Bill.