Many in the education sector are applauding the Government’s support of a working group’s recommendations to make the pay equity claims process easier, fairer, and more efficient.

This follows the government’s announcement this morning that it will consider the recommendations made by the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles.

“The bar had been set too high,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The previous Government introduced legislation that set unnecessary hurdles for women to make a pay equity claim, so we reconvened the working group to investigate how we can provide a fairer deal for women.”

The working group was chaired by Traci Houpapa and led by Business NZ, the Council of Trade Unions and the Crown. One of those on the group was NZEI’s Director of Campaigns, Stephanie Mills, who said the claims process had been interpreted “too legalistically”.

“The Original principles said there had to be an agreement that there was merit to proceed. This meant a lot of resources in terms of time and money had to be expended for say nurses to prove that theirs was a female dominated industry. You almost had to go to court to prove you had a case.

“We’ve recommended the lowest possible bar for pay equity cases to kick off, which means that if any reasonable person could argue that nursing or teaching was a female dominated profession for example, then the case should proceed.”

As well, claimants will no longer have to look first for a male comparator within the same workplace or sector, said Ms Mills.

“This meant teacher aides putting a case together for pay equity were expected to compare themselves with school caretakers for example. We saw looking at inappropriate comparators as a waste of time and resources and agreed that the women should be able to choose any appropriate comparators.”

The group heard from many, including those working on the NZEI’s already begun pay equity claims for Ministry of Education support workers, school administration staff and teacher aides, and educators in early childhood education.

NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter welcomed the news.

“We hope the united message from business, unions and officials means National will drop its ill-advised member’s bill imposing these same hurdles and instead swing behind new legislation that will make it swifter for women to achieve pay justice,” he said.

Cabinet will consider the recommendations soon, with a view to introducing legislation mid-year, said Mr Lees-Galloway.

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