Gender pay gap in PM's office three times wider

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2011

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The gender pay gap in the prime minister's department is nearly three times as large as the national average.

John Key said yesterday the gap existed "because there are different people doing different jobs and it's not an issue of gender".

Opposition MPs challenged Mr Key in Parliament yesterday over the Government's record on closing the gender wage gap.

Labour MP Carol Beaumont said as of June last year, the pay gap between men and women in Mr Key's own department was 27.5 per cent.

Mr Key said that figure would have to be "looked at closely".

"The issue there may be, as it is in a lot of workplaces, because there are different people doing different jobs and it's not an issue of gender, it's an issue of the jobs they perform," Mr Key said.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet employs 126 staff, of whom 52 per cent are female. In a leadership team of seven, two are female.

Mr Key said there were a number of reasons for the overall 10.6 per cent average gender pay gap.

About half of the workforce was employed in jobs where at least 70 per cent of workers were of the same gender. "And so comparison across the entire workplace is actually a misleading number from time to time."

New Zealand's gender pay gap was the third lowest in the developed world, he said.

Ms Beaumont said Mr Key's response was "pretty shallow" and failed to address the problem.

"He's got no good news story to tell on this one. This is an area the Government has actually deprioritised," Ms Beaumont said.

Mr Key should be asking why women were not in better-paid positions within his department, because legislation required the Government to be a good employer, Ms Beaumont said.

"I would have thought that would include ensuring there is equal employment opportunities for everybody working in the Government sector, but the reality is that there is not."

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty tried to table her Equal Pay Amendment Bill in Parliament.

The bill would allow employees to know how much someone else doing the same job as them was paid.

Ms Delahunty said Mr Key made "the right noises about equal pay" but did nothing about closing the gender pay gap.

"The fact that his own department has a gender pay gap of over 20 per cent is indicative of this fact," she said.

Her bill prompted the comment by Employers and Manufacturers' Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson that some woman were paid less partly because of time they took off for "monthly sick problems".

Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Judy McGregor has proposed broader legislation that would enable workers to establish if they were being paid equally.

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Labour has said it would support both bills to a select committee stage.

- Stuff

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