Pay Equity Settlement – what it means

An Exciting and Challenging Time Ahead

Kristine Bartlett signs the settlement with Health Minister Jonathan Coleman

NZCCSS welcomed the announcement on 18th April of the pay equity settlement as great news for carers and the older people they work with and “fantastic recognition for the work of caring”. The settlement has been widely welcomed and praised by other peak bodies with the NZ Aged Care Association’s Simon Wallace describing it as a “game-changer in a sector that traditionally struggled to attract New Zealanders into those roles.” In a similar vein, Julie Haggie, CEO of the Home and Community Health Association welcomed the settlement saying that it “will lead to a well-trained, better paid and more stable care workforce” that is currently supporting more than 110,000 people living with major health and disability challenges.

It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we’re being paid what we are actually worth

Kristine Bartlett, the E Tu union member whose legal challenge in 2012 eventually led to the settlement responded to the success of the campaign she has fronted by saying,  “It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we’re being paid what we are actually worth. After years of struggling on low wages, hopefully we’re going to have a bit left over to actually enjoy life.” The Human Rights Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue welcomed the “long-overdue” increase and also congratulated the Government for going “beyond just the living wage or pay parity, and making pay equity a reality for thousands of mainly female, low paid, workers in New Zealand” who are providing much needed support to some of our most vulnerable.

Political commentators have been busy interpreting the thinking and implications of the settlement agreement. Political scientist Bryce Edwards gives a comprehensive overview of the comments from across the political spectrum on this “massive and positive victory for the low-paid”  while you can almost hear the head-scratching as Were Wolf editor Gordon Campbell writes, “Strange indeed to hear a National Prime Minister not only singing the praises of raising the wages of the lowly paid, but also preaching that this will enable employers to reap future benefits from reduced staff turnover via upskilling their workers and offering them a viable career path.”

Meanwhile InSite editor Jude Barback, reflected on the settlement asking “what does this all mean?” for aged care as well as pay equity for women generally.  She concludes, as do many of us, that this is the beginning of a new era for aged care, so it is time to buckle up and get ready for the “twists and turns” that lie ahead.

Further information on the implementation of the settlement

The Ministry of Health website has page dedicated to the implementation of the Pay Equity Settlement that includes information for employees as well as information for providers and employers. Briefings for managers and financial advisors of service providers are being held in the week beginning 8th May while there are also separate meetings being organised for union representatives and staff.

The Pay Equity Settlement affects care workers in aged residential care, home and community support as well as community residential living for people with disabilities. Each of these areas of work has different approaches to funding and contracting with the Ministry of Health, therefore the implementation approach will be different across each type of service.

The Ministry is releasing Operational Policy Documents covering each of the three area in early May to all  providers to provide guidance on implementation of the settlement agreement. The NZACA website includes comprehensive history of the case as well as up to date links to information on the settlement. Providers wanting more information about the home and community support services area should contact the Home and Community Health Association. Aged care sector online magazine InSite is also a valuable source of information and commentary in a fast-moving space.

For further information and queries about the process contact the Ministry of Health implementation team directly at: payequity_implementation@moh.govt.nz