This was sparked by the Court of Appeal decision in Terranova v Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) and Bartlett (the Terranova Case), that we reported on in our April 2015 newsletter, which confirmed that “equal pay for women, for work predominantly or exclusively performed by women, is to be determined by reference to what men who would be paid to do the same work, by removing the skills, responsibilities, conditions and degrees of effort as well as any systematic undervaluation of the work from gender discrimination.”
The Working Group has now made several recommendations to the Government on the processes and principles which should be used when resolving pay equity issues. The recommendations are currently being considered by Ministers but in summary, the main elements are:
(1) Determining the merit of a pay equity claim involves consideration of whether the work is predominantly performed by women and subject to systemic undervaluation;
(2) Employers receiving claims will be required to notify other employees who may also be affected;
(3) Once accepted as a pay equity claim, the parties will bargain to resolve the claim using the existing good faith bargaining arrangements under the Employment Relations Act 2000;
(4) Good faith bargaining will be guided by pay equity principles including an assessment of the skills, responsibilities and conditions of the work;
(5) An examination of the work and remuneration of appropriate comparators may include male comparators performing work, all or aspects of which, involve skills, responsibilities and conditions which are the same or similar to the work being examined;
(6) If parties reach an impasse in any aspect, either in assessing whether the claim is a pay equity claim or during the bargaining itself, they will be able to use the existing dispute resolution processes including mediation and determinations in the Employment Relations Authority;
(7) The Employment Relations Authority will be able to make determinations to fix provisions in employment agreements, including pay.
If the Government implements the Working Group’s recommendations, industries such as nursing and early childhood care will be affected. Pay equity claims are likely to be complex and expensive to resolve, possibly making the resolution of such claims, prohibitive. The Working Group has recognised this and has suggested that the Government consider training support agencies involved in the process to ensure there is support in resolving pay equity claims.