Advocates call on Government to make pay gap reporting mandatory in private sector

December is the month fair-pay advocates have chosen to highlight lower wages for women, ethnic minorities and migrant workers.

Effectively, they say, the pay those groups receive means they're working for one month of the year for free.

Now, they're calling on the new Government to make pay gap reporting mandatory in the private sector.

As a Filipina, Christmas is a big deal for Nina Santos, spokeswoman for Mind the Gap.

"Christmas in the Philippines actually starts in September, you know, the 'ber' months," she said.

But the knowledge women and ethnic minorities are effectively working for free for the rest of the year takes a little shine off the festive season.

"Pacific women, Māori women, Asian women, ethnic workers all started working for free earlier in the year, some as early as October," Santos told Newshub.

According to Tatauranga/Stats NZ data, not only are Kiwi women paid about 9 percent less than men - but when ethnicity is taken into account, the gap is bigger.

Plus, non-Pākehā men are paid much less than their white counterparts too.

"At a time when the cost of living crisis is at an all-time high. It's embarrassing that we let these issues slip into the cracks," said Santos.

When National was last in Government, it made gender pay gap reporting mandatory in the public sector, which reported its lowest gender pay gap in history this year.

There are now calls to extend mandatory pay gap reporting to the private sector.

When surveyed on this in August, ACT was opposed, while New Zealand First didn't respond, and National doesn't seem to have decided yet.

"I haven't been briefed on that sufficiently to be able to give you enough comment on when and how and if," said new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

Santos said the Government must go further and include ethnicity alongside gender in a pay transparency framework.

"We really need to be brave as a society in confronting the role of bias and discrimination in our workplaces that contribute to and drive these pay gaps," she said.

But another advocate for ethnic communities isn't convinced tackling discrimination is a priority for the new Government.

"It doesn't bode well. The signals right at the outset are bad for Māori and Pasifika," said Pakilau Manase Lua, from the Aotearoa Tongan Response Group.

Signals like rolling back the use of te reo Māori by Crown agencies.

"I'm really pissed off to be honest. It's something that our communities have worked hard for, Māori have worked hard for, for generations - to save their language despite all the ravages of colonisation, and here we are walking backwards," Lua told Newshub.

For Santos, closing the pay gap would be at least a step in the right direction.