Landmark decision paves way for equal pay

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A government decision has been hailed as a ground-breaking after senior ministers agreed to introduce guidelines designed to close the gender pay gap once and for all.

Negotiated representatives of working people, businesses and the government, the Equal Pay Principles provide guidance to employers and employees on how to assess and resolve unfair wage claims.

“I am pleased that the government is committed to being on the right side of history in making real progress to paying working women what they are worth,” said Richard Wagstaff, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.

“These principles provide a roadmap, a pathway, a practical way forward for working women to increase their pay if they believe that they are not being fairly paid based on their gender.”

Now, women will be able to file complaints over pay equality with their employers, rather than the courts, after the government decided to back the recommendations of the Joint Working Group.

The group delivered 21 recommendations to cabinet earlier this year – including one which seeks to compare male and female dominated roles as part of the assessment to discover whether gender-based discrimination is at play.

According to workplace relations and safety minister Michael Woodhouse, the government has also decided to supplement that recommendation in a bid to clarify how to choose an appropriate job for comparison.

"This was an area the Joint Working Group was not able to agree on,” said. “However, the Government believes this needs to be addressed to ensure the process is clear and effectively addresses pay equity claims for all parties." 

However, Wagstaff – who was also the lead negotiator – said the Joint Working Group was in agreement that a rigid set of rules wouldn’t work.

"Our view is that the fairest outcome is for the best and most relevant comparator to be selected in each circumstance,” he stressed.

“The government has a different opinion and wants to implement a hierarchy of comparators. We do not support this as a starting point. We think that this will waste time and create unnecessary paper work."

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