Kiwis can do anything they set their minds to: remember our number eight wire ingenuity? Currently, that’s not the case when it comes to equal pay.
On New Year’s Day in 2018, the island nation of Iceland became the first country in the world to mandate equal pay. That is groundbreaking. So if you don’t pay a woman and a man the same amount for the same work, you will be fined as an employer in Iceland from now on.
The fundamental question should, of course, be why wouldn’t you pay them the same?
New Zealand has an impressive track record for being the first country in the world to proudly achieve some groundbreaking events, which include:
- First country in the world to enable women to vote
- Ernest Rutherford was the first scientist to split the atom
- Sir Edmund Hillary was the first mountaineer to successfully summit Mt Everest
- First country in the Asia Pacific region to allow same sex marriage
- First country in the world to win three rugby world cups!
These achievements differ in importance for all of us but, given our deep sense of fair play, why have we not embraced the same legislation as Iceland with enthusiasm and commitment, leading from the front as a world leader? This is a critical issue for New Zealand women from a national and world perspective. While it may appear odd that in a seemingly diverse and inclusive country like New Zealand, our lack of leadership around this fundamental human right actually reflects years of entrenched chauvinism and a worrying degree of the anachronistic old boys’ network that continues to flourish in NZ today.
There is currently some legislation around equal pay in NZ whereby organisations with 25-or-more staff need to provide documentation of their pay structure to be compliant and obtain certification but existing legislation falls far short of true pay equity for all employees, regardless of organisation-size. National introduced a Bill in July 2017, which Labour promptly threw out in November 2017, claiming that the proposed Bill presented barriers to pay equity rather than promoting it.
The current government has created a joint working party to establish some principles to guide new legislation, so we’ll wait to see what that looks like.
Although we can’t claim a world first for pay equity, let’s hope that the long overdue legislation to mandate it is introduced quickly and effectively, thereby establishing NZ as an early adopter of global fair workplace management. That would be something of which this country could also be proud.