Pay equity updates: Oranga Tamariki social workers, bill and action plan

Wed 17 Oct 2018

The Government has made a number of recent announcements related to pay equity. These include a pay equity agreement for Oranga Tamariki - Ministry ...

The Government has made a number of recent announcements related to pay equity. These include a pay equity agreement for Oranga Tamariki - Ministry of Children social workers, a new pay equity bill and an action plan on the gender pay gap in the public sector.

Pay equity for Ministry for Children - Oranga Tamariki social workers

Minister for Children Tracey Martin announced that Cabinet has agreed to fund a pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki social workers. She said it was an 'agreement in principle' between Oranga Tamariki and the Public Service Association (PSA). The settlement would be worth $114.6m over five years. According to the press release, the settlement would apply to more than 1300 Oranga Tamariki social workers. On average they would receive a 30.6% rise over a two year period. After reviewing the settlement in the following weeks, Oranga Tamariki social workers who are PSA members will vote on whether to accept the settlement.

The PSA has said:

“The agreement for funding the settlement by Cabinet is a recognition that the important role of statutory social workers has been undervalued – and more than that, it has been subject to historical and ongoing gender-based undervaluation."

The PSA press release also notes:

“We believe the process used for reaching this settlement and its application of the principles of the pay equity Joint Working Group is also historical, and that, as previously observed by Minister of Children Tracey Martin it represents a ‘gold standard’ for progressing future pay equity claims. We have no doubt that this settlement will have an influence for social workers in other sectors, and in that sense it is a true trail blazer for the undervalued profession of social work. For social workers at DHBs and NGOs who deliver vital community public services it is a given that discussions about pay equity will be entered into - with strong, continuing advocacy for pay equity from the PSA on their behalf."

Non-government organisations (NGO) have called for the settlement to apply to all social workers, including the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, Women's Refuge, NZ Council of Christian Social ServicesWhānau Ora Services for Manukau Urban Māori Authority, Social Service Providers AotearoaShakti Community Council and the Methodist Alliance

Many of these NGOs have raised concerns about the impact of widening the existing wage gap between social workers employed by Oranga Tamariki and social workers employed by community organisations, currently around 20% on average. The gap is expected to widen up to 50% with the pay offer, leading to fears that community agencies will struggle to employ social workers facing the choice of better paid jobs with government.

Update: PSA has announced that the pay equity settlement for social workers at Oranga Tamariki has been ratified to go ahead. See the Oranga Tamariki media statement for more information.

Pay equity legislation introduced

The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament in September 2018. The proposed legislation is intended to make it easier for workers to file a pay equity claim within New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework.

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway said "... the Bill followed all the recommendations of the reconvened and original Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles."

Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights Commissioner, welcomed the proposed legislation. She also called for more proactive approaches to addressing pay equity:

"In order to raise a claim under the new bill, it is vital that workers have the information to benchmark their individual pay situation.

The new bill is complaints based in that women will be required to raise the complaint of unequal pay with their employer. I would also like to see the onus on the employer to do regular pay equity audit checks.

There is also an opportunity to incorporate the gender pay principles that have been adopted by the public service. These principles will cover women in ‘mixed occupations’ where they do not necessarily dominate the sector they work in, but none the less may be paid unfairly."

For more information about the new legislation, see the Fact sheet: A just and practical pay equity framework. Also see the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website on pay equity.  


Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter announced in November 2017 that the previous government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) legislation would not be progressed. This legislation was introduced after the government signed the care and support workers’ $2 billion pay equity settlement. The Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles was reconvened in January 2018. 

Government launches action plan on gender pay gap

Minister for State Services Chris Hipkins and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter launched the Government's action plan to eliminate the gender pay gap in the public sector. The press release summarises the four key focus areas in the strategy:

  • "Equal Pay - By the end of 2020 all agencies will have closed any gender pay gaps within the same roles.
  • Flexible Work by Default - By 2020 all agencies will be flexible-by-default.
  • Bias and Discrimination - By the end of this year there will be no gender pay gaps in starting salaries for the same roles.
  • Gender Balanced Leadership - By the end of 2019 women will hold at least 50 percent of leadership roles in the top three tiers of leadership."

See the Ministry for Women website on the gender pay gap for more information or read Eliminating the Public Service Gender Pay Gap 2018-2020 Action Plan.

Earlier this year, the Government launched new Gender Pay Principles to guide government work on gender pay and to support working environments in the state sector to be free from gender based inequalities.

Related news

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said a majority of Māori nurses won't see the gains of a pay offer for nurses as it will only cover nurses employed by District Health Boards (DHBs). NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said most Māori nurses work in primary health areas such as Māori health organisations and their nurses earn up to 25% less than DHB nurses.

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill was introduced in January 2018. Following the consultation process, in September the Education and Workforce Committee reported back on the Bill with a recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

Chief Social Worker Paul Nixon is leaving his role. He discussed the ongoing work of and challenges facing Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children in an interview on Radio NZ.

Selected media

Social workers ditch NGOs for better pay at Oranga Tamariki, Newshub, 22.11.2018

Social workers aim to use public sector pay rise as leverage, Radio NZ, 15.11.2018

Pay equity still an issue for wāhine Māori, Te Karere TVNZ, 22.10.2018

Pay Equity Amendment Bill: more snakes and ladders, Press Release: Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay - CEVEP, Scoop, 22.10.2018

Gender Pay Equity for Social Workers in Aotearoa New Zealand, Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand Blog, 20.10.2018

Genuine move to enshrine pay equity in law, Press Release: New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Scoop, 16.10.2018

Social agencies may be forced to shut their doors as wage gap sees social workers leave for government jobs, One News, 13.10.2018

Māori women worst paid, Waatea News, 08.10.2018

Mental health and public health nurses to vote on pay offer, Press Release: Public Service Association, Scoop, 03.10.2018

Pay deal could help Oranga Tamariki keep staff, Radio NZ, 27.09.2018

Outgoing chief social worker Paul Nixon, Radio NZ, 26.09.2018

Pay equity deal for Oranga Tamariki social workers, Radio NZ, 25.09.2018

Significant settlement offer shows the power of unions, Press Release: New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Scoop, 25.09.2018

Social workers get $114m in Government pay equity settlement, Stuff, 25.09.2018

Welfare League takes on Oranga Tamariki, Waatea News, 24.09.2018

Pasifika Women Effectively Working for Free for the Rest of the Year, Press Release Council of Trade Unions, 21.09.2018

Suffrage small part of wider Māori struggle, Waatea News, 20.09.2018

Celebrate Suffrage Day but Put Your Money Where Mouth Is, Press Release: TIASA (Tertiary Institutes Allied Staff Association), Scoop, 19.09.2018

Suffrage 125 a milestone year for the National Council of Women, National Council of Women News, 19.09.2018

125 years on – Still Striving for Equality, Press Release: Human Rights Commission, Scoop, 19.09.2018

Stacey Morrison: Mana wāhine embedded in Māori world view, Opinion, NZ Herald, 19.09.2018

BusinessNZ criticises 'unilateral' addition of 'back pay' to pay equity bill, Stuff, 19.09.2018

Government won't use 'positive' sex discrimination law to hire more women, Stuff, 28.07.2018

Image: Pixabay

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