22 Oct 2018

Govt's new pay equity bill slammed by campaigners

9:29 pm on 22 October 2018

Campaigners for pay equity say they are disappointed with the government's legislation intended to resolve the issue.

Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, ACC, and of Immigration.

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Coalition for Equal Value for Equal Pay said the Pay Equity Amendment Bill would allow employers to draw out the settlement process for years.

Its spokesperson Prue Hyman said the bill, which had its first reading last week, contained the same snakes and ladders process as older legislation.

She said under the new bill, employers could assert that the initial claim was not even arguable.

"It's still very complicated in terms of the process. If the employer doesn't accept it's arguable, there's room for facilitation and mediation, going up and down, and 65 delays here, longer ones there, [so] employers could take very many years."

The bill would leave affected workers waiting longer for pay equity, she said.

Prue Hyman

Prue Hyman Photo: Supplied

Minister for Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said that claim was unsubstantiated.

"If we only made minor payments to the Equal Pay Act, the only redress people would have settling a pay equity claim would be would be to go through a lengthy court process.

"Both the previous government and the current government felt that it was much better to support a bargaining process where employers and workers could sit down and work through a pay equity claim."

The bill provided a far smoother pay equity process than going through the courts, which was echoed by both employers and unions.

What is the Pay Equity Amendment Bill?

  • The bill will describe what a pay equity claim is and introduce a new process for working through them.
  • To make a pay equity claim the employee needs to establish that their work is predominantly done by females and that it is currently undervalued.
  • If it's agreed that a pay equity claim exists then the parties can use mediation tools in the Employment Relations Act toolkit to negotiate. The bill allows for backpay to be agreed or ordered.
  • The bill is aimed at eliminating pay discrimination based on sex, for work that's mostly done by women, compared with similar occupations with male dominance.
  • Pay equity claims are settled through negotiation or by the courts but this bill provides a process for parties to bargain with each other directly.

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