Equal pay legislation to be heard in parliament

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New legislation aimed at ensuring equal pay is set to go before parliament after the bill was drawn from the members’ ballot yesterday.

Proposed by Green MP Jan Logie, the Equal Pay Amendment Bill would require employers to record how much men and women are paid for the same job before passing that information on to Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

From there, the government department would publish the data in aggregate and employees would be able to request access to the information.

“I am so pleased that women’s pay is going to be on the agenda,” said Logie. “There’s a real choice that all MPs will have to make about this bill: whether they want the gender pay imbalance to be a relic of the past, or for it continue to affect Kiwi women every single working day for decades to come.”

In workplaces where the legislation would create privacy issues, Logie explained that the information would be given to an independent reviewer.

“That independent reviewer would say, 'Actually, there is a problem here and it should be addressed' and [employees] can go and take that to the Employment Court,” she explained.

The Human Rights Commission has already welcomed Logie’s bill as have representatives from some of New Zealand’s largest unions.

“This bill would impose virtually no additional cost on employers, but will make it much easier for employees to raise a claim for equal pay if they believe they’re subject to discrimination,” said PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk.

"We think this bill is a crucial piece of legislation which all parties should support," she added.

Jo Copeland, HR director at Simpson Grierson, also welcomed the bill and said publishing data is among the most effective ways to close the gender pay gap.

“I think the fastest way to tackle the gender pay gap is for employers to collect the data around pay equity, analyse it and then report on it in an aggregated way,” she told HRM.

“In my experience, the only way to really drive change is through transparency, as bringing these issues to light effectively airs out any organisation's dirty laundry.”

Last year, the commercial law firm won gold at the YWCA Equal Pay Awards and was praised for achieving a zero per cent pay gap.

“It's fantastic that we've achieved this but it really wasn't that hard,” said Copeland, who laid out three steps to achieving equal pay.

“Firstly, it's important to increase salary for those on parental leave. If the budgeted increase in a year is 3 per cent, that should be afforded to those on leave, otherwise they return having effectively taken a pay cut,” she explains.

“Secondly, companies should audit their pay practices and report on them to the board, even if they don't ask for it.

“Finally, if a male is the best person for the job and he is currently paid more than your more experienced female staff, hire him, but increase the salaries of your more experienced female staff.”

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