New Zealand launches cross-government gender pay principles

By on 05/07/2018
PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk

Pay rates should be transparent, employment practices free from gender bias and the value of unpaid work recognised, according to a set of civil service gender pay principles launched by the government of New Zealand.

The government agreed to work with unions the Public Service Association (PSA) and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) on the principles in response to a 2015 case brought by the PSA against the State Services Commissioner, New Zealand’s most senior civil servant.

The principles are grouped under five main themes. The first is freedom from bias and discrimination, which requires that employment and pay practices are free from the effects of conscious and unconscious bias and assumptions based on gender. Second comes transparency and accessibility – particularly in employment and pay practices, pay rates and systems.

The third concerns the relationship between paid and unpaid work, and sets out the principle that employment and pay practices should recognise and account for different patterns of labour force participation by workers who are undertaking unpaid and/or caring work. Fourth is sustainability, requiring that interventions and solutions are collectively developed and agreed, sustainable and enduring. And finally there’s participation and engagement: employees, their unions and agencies should work collaboratively to achieve mutually agreed outcomes.

Reach and exclusions

The principles will apply to the 31 public service departments covered by the State Sector Act, with a view to extending them more widely across the state sector.

They do not apply to pay inequity experienced in female-dominated sectors. These issues have already been dealt with through a separate set of principles agreed in 2016, following a legal case that led to a pay settlement for 55,000 care and support workers.

The document was launched at an event at the New Zealand parliament on Monday. PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said: “The PSA is proud to have played a part in bringing these principles to life, and it shows what can be achieved when workers stand together for a better working life.”

Caring for carers

CTU vice president Rachel Mackintosh highlighted in particular the principle covering recognition of the time women take out of the workforce doing unpaid work. This states that employees, unions and agencies must ensure that time out of the workforce for unpaid work does not result in disadvantage in pay or barriers to progression; that skills gained through unpaid work are used and rewarded; that flexible and part-time working is normalised for all roles without adversely affecting security of employment; and that men are encouraged to participate in unpaid work.

Mackintosh said: “Many women take time out of the workforce to do unpaid work. I am thrilled that these principles recognise this, as it is often never properly addressed.”

The principles should also be adopted outside the civil service, she added.

About Catherine Early

Catherine Early is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has worked for the Environmentalist, the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue.

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