Mind the gap – addressing pay inequity in Aotearoa

Ensuring people are paid fairly is a fundamental human right, however gender and ethnic pay gaps persist in Aotearoa New Zealand.

While the Equal Pay Act 1972 makes it clear that equal pay and pay equity are legal requirements, in 2021 men in Aotearoa New Zealand earned on average 9% more than women overall. In addition, the gaps are wider for Māori, Pasifika and women from other ethnic minorities.

Pay gaps are indicators of inequity in the workplace, and while it is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay legislation this year, we still have a lot of work to do.

Amy Ross and Stephanie Nichols from the Centre for Equal Pay presented a webinar for ACE New Zealand recently, sharing the progress made so far in the public sector to eliminate pay gaps, along with actions your organisation can take to address inequities. 

In response to questions at the end of the webinar, Amy and Stephanie provided some useful suggestions and resources that could help you make a contribution to addressing pay inequities. 

Do you think that pay transparency is an important part of tackling the pay gaps?

Stephanie Nichols
Yes, pay transparency is important. Most people don’t think about relative pay unless the data is put in front of them. Inequities can be shown most prominently when patterns in data are identified. The Centre for Equal Pay recognises the importance of transparency and as a result has been asking public service agencies to become even more transparent in the data they collect, and their annual pay gap action plans by publishing them on their open websites.

You can view the gender pay gap action plans for agencies in the public service here.

Do you have advice about how pay transparency could be implemented in private sector organisations?

Amy Ross
When looking at pay equity, especially in female dominated occupations, I would encourage organisations to have a look at the Te Orowaru work assessment tool here. This allows you to think about the types of questions that draw out the skills, responsibility, effort and experience of those employees. Note the language and the factor scoring plan which enables you to measure the level and points for that occupation. You can then think about your job descriptions and whether you are capturing all the competencies required in those occupations. Using the tools and having conversations with your employees helps organisations understand the complexity and level of skill being performed in a role.

Stephanie Nichols
While we have focussed our guidance and advice on the public sector, it does have universal application. In tackling the issues of pay transparency, it is valuable to join up and coordinate with other individual organisations. This allows you to collect data across your industry and benefit from a larger pool.

There is detailed advice available on how to publish data without breaching people’s individual privacy. By aggregating across organisations you can achieve the data you need to protect individual confidentiality.  Even if you can’t publish the data, it is still highly valuable to be able to understand it.

You can find the Centre for Equal Pay’s guidance and resources for addressing pay gaps here.

What would you recommend as the first action an SME organisation should take when looking to address potential pay gaps?

Amy Ross
Firstly, start with data as this is your evidence base. Visit the resources and guidance provided by the Equal Pay Taskforce. Next, join up and collate your data with other organisations. Bringing the data together is especially important when addressing issues such as a low level of diversity in a sector. Then come together as a body to create an environment that generates interest amongst a more diverse group in the industry.

Stephanie Nichols
To achieve cultural shift and change, it is important to bring people along with you. Collaborate with unions and employees and involve other people who might have pieces of the puzzle. Leadership buy-in is also key. Leaders need to understand the importance of pay equity from a business point of view as well as a justice and equity perspective. 

If you are looking for ways to collaborate within our industry, we can help.

ACE New Zealand provides an opportunity for member organisations to collate their pay data annually through a confidential survey run independently by Strategic Pay. Contact us to join the ACE NZ renumeration survey. All organisations who share their data receive a complimentary copy of the annual report.

The Diversity Agenda is a joint initiative working to help engineering and architecture firms become more diverse and inclusive through awareness, empowerment, and action. You can join the Diversity Agenda here and sign up to be Diversity Agenda Accord to be part of the positive change in our industry.