Government promising action to tackle the gender pay gap in 2017
New Minister for Women Paula Bennett is promising action on closing this country's gender pay gap after progress slowed to a crawl over the past decade.
An annual study of 100 human resources managers in New Zealand by Robert Half, found 82 per cent of companies acknowledge a gender pay gap still exists.
The report found almost 97 per cent of companies were working to close the gap with the two most popular tactics being implementing pay transparency and linking promotions to pay rises.
This meant organisations were making sure employees understood how to apply for a pay rise, how pay rise policies worked internally, and had a better understanding of the relationship between promotion and pay.
* Kristine Bartlett demanded equal pay for work of equal value regardless of gender
* Government to address pay equity, caregiver wages
* Supreme Court dismisses equal pay bid appeal
* Court ruling a big win for female workers
Robert Half general manager Megan Alexander said the gender pay gap was still an issue and would take time to close.
"[The pay gap] has been steadily reducing since 1998 when it was around 16 per cent," she said.
"Now it's 12 per cent, so it's encouraging, but companies still have to work to implement these transparent polices, salary audits, keeping abreast of market conditions."
There were just as many talented women as there were men for jobs, so the gap came down to policy, Alexander said.
Bennett, who is also the deputy prime minister, said she had personally experienced the gender pay gap while working as a dishwasher and nurse aid.
"Now that I am in the position I'm in, my absolute focus is fighting for a solution to ensure that other New Zealand women don't have to have the same experiences."
The Government intends to introduce a Bill this year that will make it easier for women to file pay equity claims with their employers, rather than having to go through the courts. It will also help employers address those claims.
The changes were prompted by the landmark court battle of aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett, who argued TerraNova Homes & Care in Lower Hutt was underpaying staff because of the high percentage of female employees.
Bennett said there had been some progress in the public sector, where the gender pay gap fell by 0.5 per cent last year and the amount of women in senior leadership roles reached 45 per cent.
New Zealand's gender pay gap was still one of the lowest in the OECD, and has reduced from 22 per cent in 1985, she said.
But the difference in pay between men's and women's wages grew between 2012 to 2015, according to Statistics NZ.
In the June 2015 quarter, the median hourly pay for men was $24.07 and $21.23 for women. This meant men earned almost 12 per cent more per hour of work than women.
Massey University lecturer Deborah Russell said she hoped the Government would provide enough funding to implement pay equity, especially in health and education.
"The real worry for me is it's pervasive throughout the job market, but it hits hardest at low-income women. They're the ones struggling to put food on the table for their families."
E Tu equal pay campaigning coordinator Yvette Taylor said it was not always obvious which sectors were underpaid.
"Laundry workers, call centre workers - these are groups we represent."
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said business leaders wanted to see more women getting skills in higher-paying occupations, such as engineering, science, technical and IT, he said.
Labour MP Sue Moroney said the shrinking of the gender pay gap stalled when National disestablished the Department of Labour's pay and employment equity unit shortly after becoming the Government in 2008 without ensuring enough money was adequately re-purposed to the Ministry of Women's Affairs.