New Zealand companies trying to tackle the gender pay gap

Aged care worker Kristine Bartlett made history with her landmark case over low wages for women workers.
CRAIG SIMCOX/FAIRFAX NZ

Aged care worker Kristine Bartlett made history with her landmark case over low wages for women workers.

New Zealand pay equality has come a long way since women first entered the workforce, but progress has slowed to a crawl.

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. 

New Zealand's gender pay gap rose between 2012 and 2015 with men earning 11.8 per cent more an hour than women.
MICHELE MOSSOP/FAIRFAX MEDIA

New Zealand's gender pay gap rose between 2012 and 2015 with men earning 11.8 per cent more an hour than women.

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. 

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Robert Half general manager Megan Alexander said the gender pay gap was still an issue and would take time to close.

Thirty per cent of companies that took part in the study said they were linking fixed pay rises to promotions.
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Thirty per cent of companies that took part in the study said they were linking fixed pay rises to promotions.

"[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.  

Although companies may be on the right track, the gap is far from being closed.

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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.

The gender pay gap in New Zealand has been steadily reducing since the 1990s but has barely moved in the last decade.

In November last year aged care worker Kristine Bartlett won a landmark case that introduced a process for women to file complaints over pay equality with their employers, rather than the courts. 

"This is fairly world leading stuff and very historic in terms of the pay rise the aged care sector will get," E Tu equal pay campaigning coordinator Yvette Taylor said. 

"One of the major reasons for the gender pay gap in New Zealand is this occupational segregation - jobs that women predominantly do and Kristine Bartlett's case was a prime example of that," Taylor said. 

Taylor said research had showed aged care work could be compared with that of a corrections officer. 

"There was the same level of skills and responsibility in those two jobs," she said. 

According to the government careers website a corrections officers with one to three years' experience would usually earn between $47,000 and $55 000 a year.

In comparison a nursing support and care worker would usually earn between $35,000 and $40 000 a year. 

Taylor said it was not always obvious which sectors were underpaid. 

"Laundry workers, call centre workers - these are groups we represent," she said. 

Taylor said E Tu was in negotiations with the Government over aged care worker pay, and hoped the result would change the way women were viewed in the workplace.

 - Stuff

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