Working group to pursue pay equity principles for workplaces

  • Paula Bennett
  • Michael Woodhouse
State Services Workplace Relations and Safety

Employers and unions have agreed to a Government proposal to set up a Joint Working Group to develop principles for dealing with claims of pay equity under the Equal Pay Act.

Minister of State Services Paula Bennett and Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse say the group will recommend agreed principles on pay equity that could be applied in all sectors of the economy.

The recent Court of Appeal decision in the TerraNova case on pay rates in the aged care sector found that women in predominantly female workforces could make a claim for pay equity under the Equal Pay Act.

The ruling meant that the Employment Court would have moved to develop a set of principles under section 9 of the Equal Pay Act to be observed in implementing pay equity in the aged care sector.

Workers in other industries who believe they do not have pay equity also may have had to take legal action and ask the Courts to set principles to implement pay equity for their industry.

“It is not practical or efficient for workers and employers to have to go to Court to seek principles for their particular industry one-by-one,” Mr Woodhouse says.

The Joint Working Group will give Ministers recommendations on how to achieve pay equity consistent with New Zealand’s employment relations framework and a well-functioning labour market.

Unions have agreed to put on hold their legal action until March 2016 to allow the Joint Working Group to proceed.

“I am very pleased unions and employers’ groups have been so willing to take part in this process and work together with government officials to come up with practical solutions,” Mrs Bennett says.

The group is being formed now and is expected to meet later this month. Recommendations to Ministers are expected by the end of March 2016 and some may need to be included in legislation, if accepted by the Government.

The union representatives will be led by Council of Trade Unions representative Helen Kelly. Government agency representatives will be led by Government Chief Talent Officer Andrew Hampton.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman today confirmed the Government will negotiate over pay rates for about 50,000 care and support workers.