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  • Writer's pictureMegan Wood

Equal pay turns 50, the Fair Pay Act progresses + more employment news

There has been a lot in the news this week about changes being made in NZ to further guarantee workers' rights. The Fair Pay Act is reaching its final stages, further moves are being made to protect migrant workers and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. All of this got me thinking about how far we have come towards equality, but is it enough? What do employers need to know to ensure equality for their people and where is there still room for improvement?

First presented to Parliament back in March, the Fair Pay Agreements Bill is set to undergo some key changes based on feedback from the Education and Workforce Select Committee. The legislation is designed to offer more protection to low wage groups, casual and seasonal workers, but some felt that the thresholds outlined in the bill were too low and it is likely to address these concerns. The bill is then likely to come into effect by the end of the year. What does this mean for employers?

The FPA could initially add a layer of complexity around pay agreements for some businesses, and confusion over the correct application of the Bill are inevitable. Overall, however, the Government hopes that the Bill will ensure reputable companies are not undercut by others who are underpaying their employees. The aim is that workers will be more loyal and dedicated when they know they are being paid fairly. Details and guidance about the Fair Pay Agreement system will be available to employers and employees from next month.

Another move to protect migrant workers has been set in motion with the Government introducing the Worker Protection (Migrant and Other Employees) Bill. The aim of the new bill is to protect migrants from exploitation and also hold to account those employers who don’t comply with current employment and immigration laws. Those convicted of migrant exploitation will also be disqualified from managing or directing a company, and be named in a public register.

This year is the 50th birthday celebration of the Equal Pay Act, the 1972 legislation that guaranteed equal pay for equal work, no matter your gender. The significance of the Act cannot be overstated, but the fact that it has been in place for half a century and there is still a gender pay gap issue in New Zealand means there is more to be done. In 2022, Employment NZ figures show that men earn on average 10% more than women overall and that women are under-represented in high-level roles. I see these statistics as an opportunity.

New Zealand employers can choose to lead the world in workers’ rights and equality, which in turn will attract more global talent. No matter the size or scale of the company, businesses can make small changes, that will have a big difference.

If your business would like some independent advice on how it can make sure that all of its policies and practices are fair and equitable, reach out to me for a consultation.

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