NZ Equal Pay Legislation
The 1960 Act introduced equal pay legislation into the public sector, covering all government employees and also those whose salaries were paid out from money appropriated by Parliament. Under this Act, women were to be paid the same salaries as men for doing equal work under equal conditions. Going further than contemporary overseas legislation, this Act also recognised the need to introduce equal pay in occupations performed exclusively or principally by women. Although enacted on 1 April 1961, the first payment was not made until 27 August 1962.
The practice of equal pay was extended to the private sector with the passing of this 1972 Act. The Act enabled the elimination and prevention of gender discrimination in remuneration rates in all sectors of paid employment. Rates paid to women were to be based on the rates paid to male employees with the same (or substantially similar) skills, responsibilities and service. While the provision of the Equal Pay Act 1972 narrowed the gender wage gap, there was growing alarm about the lack of clear guidelines in assessing equal pay rates or exactly which male-dominated professions were deemed comparable to their female counterparts.
This Act was divided into three areas - pay equity, equal employment opportunities and the institutional arrangements of setting up the Employment Equity Office. The Office would establish, promote and enforce the principle and practice of pay equity and equal employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors. On 26 July 1990, this Act was passed in Parliament by the Labour Government, yet its future was uncertain due to the forthcoming general election. In November 1990, the new National Government announced the formation of a Working Group on the Employment Equity Act. Even before the Working Group had reported back to Parliament, the National Government repealed the Employment Equity Act in December 1990.
The passing of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA) 1991 repealed the earlier Employment Equity Act 1990. Equal pay complaints could be made under the ECA's personal grievances section, the Human Rights Act 1993 or the amended Equal Pay Act. However any achievements as a result of using these procedures have been virtually impossible with no personal grievances cases and only six complaints made to the Human Rights Commission on the grounds of gender discrimination in remuneration and conditions between 1993 and 1996. None of these cases were successful, demonstrating the real difficulties in establishing equal pay claims under this new legislation. In New Zealand's deregulated labour market, collecting any information about the remuneration rates used in workplaces is far harder to obtain than earlier industrial award rates had been. The lack of transparency that operates in many remuneration systems has also created significant barriers in identifying gender pay discrimination.
The Employment Relations Act came into force on 2nd October 2000, replacing the Employment Contracts Act 1991. The goal of this legislation is to build productive employment relationships through mutual trust, confidence and fair dealing. The principle of good faith underlines the key spirit of the Employment Relations Act, which seeks to promote positive dealings between employees, employers and unions. Employment arrangements entered after 2nd October 2000 are now known as employment relationships, while the newly established Employment Relations Authority serves as an investigative body resolving any problems. Further information about the Employment Relations Act is available through the Employment Relations Service's internet site or by contacting their free phone Infoline at 0800 800 863.