Calls for Government to introduce mandatory pay gap reporting for large businesses to help solve New Zealand's pay inequities

A woman earning the current median wage could receive up to $35.77 per week more.
A woman earning the current median wage could receive up to $35.77 per week more. Photo credit: File/ISTOCK

In light of the current cost of living crisis, an extra $35 a week could make the world of difference to low-income families. 

For many women, up to $35 per week is the difference they earn compared to their Pākehā male counterparts and at a time where every dollar counts organisations are calling on the Government to address pay gaps immediately.

A group of 40 New Zealand unions, charities and community groups have joined together to implore the Government to change legislation to address the country's gender and ethnic pay gaps.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister and Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Jacinda Ardern, Associate Minister for Workplace Relations Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Minister for Women Jan Tinetti, the organisations are calling on the Government to make pay gap reporting mandatory for businesses with over 50 employees.

Led by MindTheGapNZ, the letter said with the soaring cost of living taking its toll on whānau nationwide, a situation made worse by winter heating bills, now more than ever we must act to close pay gaps.

"Many women and people in our Māori, Pasifika and other ethnic communities earn much less than they would if they were a Pākehā man. That's not fair. It's not the Kiwi way. The playing field is tilted against too many," the letter said.  

"In these tough times, every dollar counts. We can't afford to wait any longer.

"Requiring big employers to report pay gaps can help reduce child poverty and help end discrimination that impacts on the aspirations of Māori, of Pasifika; of other ethnic groups."

MindtheGap campaign co-founders Dr Jo Cribb and Dellwyn Stuart said while they are pleased the Government has agreed to address pay gaps as a priority, it needs to be done urgently so Kiwis can immediately see increases to their paychecks.

"Overseas experience shows that making it mandatory for businesses to report their pay gap has resulted in, not only closing the gap but quickly having a positive impact on workers' pay packets, once the legislation is announced," Dr Cribb said.

MindTheGapNZ said an analysis of public pay gap reporting in seven countries showed mandatory reporting can reduce gender pay gaps by 20 to 40 percent. 

In New Zealand, that would mean a woman earning the current median wage of $26.37 could receive between $12.80 to $35.77 per week more.

A woman earning the current median wage could receive up to $35.77 per week more.
A woman earning the current median wage could receive up to $35.77 per week more. Photo credit: Getty Images

Dr Cribb said the increase could make a huge difference to the lives of low-paid employees.

"$35 a week will help with this winter's heating bills or buy 12 litres of petrol. We literally can't afford to waste any more time addressing this issue."

MindTheGap allied member The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) said introducing pay gap reporting will help empower the most vulnerable communities in Aotearoa.

"As a country, we can help improve the wellbeing of our working people with simple steps such as pay gap reporting. We look forward to working with the Government to see this become a reality," CTU secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges said.

The CEO of Community Housing Aotearoa-Ngā Wharerau o Aotearoa Vic Crockford said they are working with huge numbers of people who can't afford rent, let alone aspire to be homeowners - despite being on a double income.

"The pay gap only makes this worse. We know that what gets measured, gets managed and we should be treating pay gaps like we treat health and safety - as a business-critical issue that impacts the wellbeing of our society," Crockford said.

In its #NotAnotherWinter campaign, MindTheGap is asking New Zealanders to sign a petition to call for urgent action on the issue.

There is already widespread public support for pay gap reporting, with a poll finding over half of Kiwis (58 percent) believe large businesses should be required to share any pay gaps regularly and publicly. 

A similar number said they were concerned about pay gaps and 68 percent agreed large businesses should be required to make pay gaps known to job candidates. 

So far, only 55 out of an estimated 5000 businesses with over 50 employees are reporting their gender pay gaps on the MindTheGap campaign's public registry, seven of those are also reporting their Māori pay gap and their Pasifika pay gap.

Mandatory reporting is already in place for the NZ public services, but MindTheGap wants the Government to extend it and work with businesses to agree on a standardised approach to pay gap reporting legislation.

Signatories to the open letter: Human Rights Commission, E tū,  New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, FIRST Union, Pacifica Inc, Auckland Action Against Poverty, Wellington City Mission, Auckland City Mission, Community Housing, NZ Council of Christian Social Services, E Tipu E Rea Whānau, Strategic Pay, Working Women's Resource Centre, National Council of Women, Graduate Women New Zealand, BPW, Inclusive Aotearoa Collective, Belong Aotearoa, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, YWCA, Gendertick, Global Women, Rural Women, Pacific Women's  Watch, CAANZ, Sports NZ, Pride Pledge, Auckland Women's centre, Good Shepherd NZ, Diversity Works, Retirement Commission, Birthright, Hui e, Renters United, Action Station, Monte Cecilia, The Period Place, St Matthews and Socialink.