Equal Pay Amendment Act gives thousands of women easier access to equal pay

Thousands of women across the country will now have easier access to equal pay with the introduction of the Equal Pay Amendment Act.

Now, for the first time in New Zealand history, the Government and employers will work together to address pay inequity instead of having disputes go through the courts.

As an early childhood teacher, Mel Burgess is responsible for educating our youngest Kiwis.

But as important as her job is, she - along with thousands of other women - has been battling for years for equal pay.

"The younger the age group the less value is put on the teacher," she says.

"I want my profession which I know is crucial to society valued accordingly."

That value will now be easier to get with the introduction of the Equal Pay Amendment Act, which makes it easier for women to make claims about pay inequity.

The New Zealand Education Institute Te Rui Roa says the legislation is world-leading and will make a real difference.

"No other country has this type of legal framework to follow so it's exciting, it's groundbreaking," says NZEI Te Riu Roa early childhood representative Virginia Oakley.

"[It gives us] a clearer process we can follow and it doesn't mean we have to fight through the courts to get pay equity sector for the sector."

There are currently more than 86,000 New Zealanders progressing at least 15 pay equity claims in the education, health and the public sectors. The Government says this Act will make it easier to settle the inequity for women in historically underpaid employment.

"This is just one - albeit a very overdue one - but one step in our journey towards gender equality," says incoming Minister for Women Jan Tinetti.

ACT was the only party to vote against the Equal Pay Amendment Act, saying it pushed pay equity backwards not forwards.

"It's going to be a more complex and bureaucratic process. The last thing we need in an economic recovery is more bureaucracy," says leader David Seymour.

But for women like Burgess, the chance to earn equal pay is priceless.