5 Mar 2018

Changes aim to remove barriers to filing pay equity claims

10:54 am on 5 March 2018

Cabinet will soon consider a range of recommendations aimed at making it easier to file a pay equity claim.

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Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter reconvened the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles in January.

The group, led by Traci Houpapa, had representatives from businesses, unions and the public sector.

It has recommended changes to the way pay equity claims are considered and the threshold they have to meet.

The changes, it said, should be enshrined in law by amending the Pay Equity Act 1972.

The initial intent was that identifying and initiating a claim would be a "simple and accessible process to all parties", but the group found this had not been the case.

In the original proposal, 'Principle 2' provided guidelines for pay equity claims, to "be used by the employer to determine the merit of a claim as a pay equity claim".

The group said parties involved in early claims found the concept of the word 'merit' created an "unintended barrier" to progressing claims and so that word would be removed.

Mr Lees-Galloway said the way Principle 2 was worded left it open to "quite a bit of interpretation".

"And the interpretation had got ratcheted up quite a long way so that quite high bars were being expected for whether or not there was merits to it."

He said there would be general criteria to be considered at the outset.

"Where there is a female-dominated occupation, where on the face of it there is a case to be made that that occupation has been underpaid over a period of time - that is all you really need to initiate a claim."

There could also be changes to the way comparisons to similar occupations are made, basically leaving it up to the parties involved to decide how best to do that, he said.

As well as changes to the way claims are assessed, the group said the government should make sure there were enough resources so all relevant pay and workforce data was accessible, and that regulatory and support agencies had the necessary skills.

The minister Iain Lees-Galloway said Cabinet would consider the recommendations and look to introduce legislation mid next year.