The Pay Equity Bill – Making It Easier for Employees to Raise a Complaint

Pay equity is often a hot topic of discussion, not just in New Zealand, but on a global scale. And for good reason. Historically, women were generally paid less than men and, in some occupations where women have dominated the workforce, it has created a wage imbalance and undervalued their work.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Government introduced the Equal Pay Amendment Bill, which aims to introduce a system that will allow women employed within female-dominated industries, to lodge pay equity claims more easily.

Since the Equal Pay Act 1972 was introduced in New Zealand, there has been the requirement for pay equity, requiring women and men to be paid the same for doing the same work, or for doing work that is different but of equal value. The Act has allowed employees who feel their employer is not meeting these requirements, to raise a complaint with either the Human Rights Commission or the Employment Relations Authority. Under the Bill, the employee will be able to raise a complaint within New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework. This makes it much easier to lodge a complaint and makes court action a last resort.

Under the Bill, employers would have certain obligations should they receive an equal pay claim from an employee. Should this occur, an employer would have to notify all other workers who work in similar roles to the claimant, within 20 working days of receiving the complaint. Within 65 days of receiving the complaint, the employer must then decide if the employee has an ‘arguable’ pay equity claim. A claim is considered ‘arguable’ if it relates to work that is predominantly performed by women and is arguably undervalued. If the claim is considered ‘arguable’, the employer would then have to proceed to bargaining or mediation to resolve the claim, meaning an appropriate level of pay has been agreed that does not discriminate between male and female employees. Where the parties do not reach agreement, further action may then be taken within the courts.

If the Bill continues to progress and is adopted, the new law could take effect in the second half of 2019.

Tools to assist with pay equity
As an employer, there are many tools you can use to manage pay equity and ensure you are paying employees fairly without gender bias. Assessing the size of a job by considering factors such as skills and knowledge, responsibility, demands and effort, and working conditions allows you to take a fair and equal approach to deciding the appropriate pay level. This can then be combined with conducting a job evaluation, allowing you to compare jobs across companies and provide a fair measurement of the relative value of a job.

However, the job evaluation process does need to ensure there is no gender bias in the process itself, something which is often unintentional but can occur in any of the processes involved in describing, analysing and evaluating jobs. Most commonly, gender bias in job evaluation occurs when assumptions are made about the nature and value of work in jobs that are mainly done by women or mainly done by men.

If you would like assistance with ensuring you’re paying your workers equally, we can support you with this. Contact the team here.



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