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EEO Commissioner Disappointed With Delay In Urgent Pay Transparency Legislation

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner has expressed disappointment over the delay in undertaking urgent action to address ethnic, gender and disability pay gaps across workplaces in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Government has committed to scoping a work programme on pay transparency following an Inquiry by the Education and Workforce Select Committee but failed to provide tangible timelines or concrete commitments to get the policy work off the ground.

“This is a delay by those who have time not to worry about poverty and hardship on a day to day.”

“I ask our leaders and policy advisors to put themselves in the shoes of a worker living in poverty – your policy priorities must reflect that you see, hear and care to respond to their urgent calls too,” said Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo.

“We simply cannot continue to drag our feet on pay equity while tens of thousands of children and households, especially among Māori, Pacific, ethnic minority, and disabled, continue to suffer in silence due to pay discrimination, wage theft, systemic racism and unconscious bias in the workplace.”

“Pay transparency will help us all. We know that secrecy around pay enforces sexism and racial biases and hides structural inequalities. We have legal and moral duties to eliminate this now!”

The inquiry report by the Education and Workforce Select Committee into pay transparency recommended that the Government develop pay transparency measures like publishing starting salaries in job adverts and Māori, Pacific, and ethnic pay gaps form part of any reporting measures among other policy initiatives.

“While it’s encouraging to see the Government accept the problem exists and are committed to reducing the gender pay gap – we cannot ignore that pay equity issues go beyond gender,” added Sumeo.

“I’m disappointed that the proposed policy initiatives still largely focus on the gender pay gap when in fact Māori, Pacific, ethnic minorities, rainbow and disabled workers are affected the most.”

“I am hoping to see clearer and concrete actions as part of Government’s proposed work that takes into account ethnic, and disability pay gaps.”

In February this year, the Human Rights Commission handed over a 4,141- strong petition to Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood calling for urgent pay transparency legislation.

The Commission recommended that Government set up an independent agency to collect and publish pay information and provide resources for workers and employers to ensure pay equity and equal employment opportunities.

Research published by the Commission in 2020 validated that unequal pay and pay discrimination was prevalent across the country and the secrecy around pay and career progression exacerbates it.

Even the current Inquiry into the Pacific Pay Gap led by the EEO Commissioner is revealing that racial discrimination and a lack of equal employment opportunities are some of the reasons the Pacific Pay Gap persists in both the private and public sectors.

“We can no longer be complacent. So many of our workers are sharing their experiences of pay and racial discrimination in the workplace. We even have research that has proven commonly held beliefs that many of our vulnerable workers are being deprived of equal pay, career progression and equal employment opportunities. What more do we need to start taking the issue seriously?” said Sumeo.

“What we need now is concrete action and legislative change so that we can reduce our ethnic, gender and disability pay gaps.”

“Pay transparency is about valuing our workers. It’s about helping create a fairer society, where everyone can achieve their full potential, be fairly rewarded for the work they do and thrive in the workplace. Surely, this is collective change that we can all get behind,” added Sumeo.

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