By Peter Wilson and Sarah Robson
The Government is winning praise for a move unions hope will lead to equal pay for all working women.
It has set up a joint group charged with working out "agreed principles" on equal pay that could be applied across all industries and occupations.
The Green Party has congratulated the Government, while the Council of Trade Unions and the Public Service Association say it's a welcome step forward.
"The government has seen the writing on the wall and decided it's better to be on the right side of history," said the Greens' Jan Logie.
The country's biggest union, E tu, says it's "a huge step forward for underpaid workers", while the Public Service Association describes it as "welcome news".
The Government, employers and unions will be represented on the working group, which is expected to come up with recommendations by March next year.
Those recommendations could result in better pay for thousands of women working in low-paid, female-dominated jobs, like education support and aged care.
The move, announced by the Government yesterday, follows the landmark court case involving rest home worker Kristine Bartlett, who argued she would have been paid more by her employer if she wasn't working in a female-dominated industry.
The case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, led to a court ruling that women in female-dominated workforces could make a claim for equal pay under the law.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced the Government is entering negotiations over pay rates for around 50,000 aged care workers.
The next step would have been for the Employment Court to develop a set of principles for pay equity in the aged care sector.
Instead of leaving the Employment Court to do that for each industry one-by-one, if and when legal action is taken, the working group will come up with principles that could be applied across different sectors.
"It is not practical or efficient for workers and employers to have to go to court to seek principles for their particular industry," Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse said.
"The joint working group will give ministers recommendations on how to achieve pay equity consistent with New Zealand's employment relations framework and a well-functioning labour market."
Unions have agreed to put a number of pending court cases on hold to allow the working group to get on with its work.