The Equal Pay Act was first passed into law in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1972. This made it unlawful to pay women and men differently who are doing the same job. It was common at the time for women to be paid a lot less than their male colleagues for doing exactly the same job. While this law did not solve the gender pay gap, it was a big step forward.
In 2013 this law was tested by Kristine Bartlett and her union E Tū. They argued that Kristine was underpaid, not in relation to her male colleagues, but because the work she did as a home support worker was mainly done by women, and therefore the whole workforce was undervalued.
After a long court process the courts agreed with Kristine. The Equal Pay Act 1972 should provide protection for employees whose whole occupation may be undervalued based on gender. The historic care and support workers’ pay equity settlement, which increased pay for the whole home and disability support sector, was reached in 2018.
In 2020 the Equal Pay Act 1972 was amended so that employees like Kristine would not have to go to court to prove they were undervalued.
The Act now sets out a clear pay equity process to test whether work that’s predominantly done by women is free from sex-based undervaluation.
The Act is unique because it allows us to compare work from different organisations and/or sectors.
To find out more about this process go to the pay equity page. Here are links to the legislation that underpins our work: