Pay Equity Bill gets mixed reaction

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An exposure draft of the government’s Pay Equity Bill had already been met with mixed reactions despite being released to the public just yesterday afternoon.

“The government is committed to achieving pay equity in New Zealand and providing a practical and fair process for employees to follow if they feel they are not being paid what their job is worth due to gender discrimination,” said workplace relations and safety minister, Michael Woodhouse, upon releasing the legislation.

“The release of the draft Pay Equity Bill for consultation is an important step towards achieving that and is vital to closing the gender pay gap and ensuring female dominated industries are paid fairly,” he added.

Non-profit BusinessNZ welcomed the early release, praising the “rapid action” towards implementation and saying the legislation could have a profound impact on those involved.

"The current Equal Pay Act does not enable the implementation of pay equity claims so this legislation is needed soon to keep faith with those who have worked to achieve the change in law,” said chief executive Kirk Hope.

However, the PSA took a different stance and national secretary Erin Polaczuk expressed deep concern about the proposed bill.

"It is very disappointing that just two days after the jubilant celebrations by care and support workers, the government has released proposals to slam the door on future claimants," she said.

"If Kristine Bartlett were to lodge her equal pay claim against Terranova using this framework, she would not have achieved the great result they were celebrating.”

The Green Party also identified issues with the draft, insisting the bill actually puts more barriers in the way of women seeking fair pay.

“This Bill will scrap the Equal Pay Act and in effect overturn the Terranova court ruling. That ruling established the right to look outside of the affected industry for a comparable job”, said spokesperson Jan Logie.

“This means it will be harder for women to make a case for the gendered underpayment of work. The bill would deny other women the same access to justice as Kristine Bartlett - that’s a profound breach of trust and a filthy thing to do.”

While a number of organisations have already made their views known, Woodhouse encouraged other employers to put their opinions forward too.

“I encourage everyone to get involved in the consultation process and make sure they have their say on this very important piece of legislation,” he said.

Consultation on the Pay Equity Bill closes on Thursday 11 May and legislation is planned to be introduced soon after.

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