A private member’s bill that would have provided greater evidence with which to fight gender pay discrimination in New Zealand was lost in Parliament tonight by 59 votes to 60.
Green MP Jan Logie, said the Equal Pay Amendment Bill had been supported by a large number of women and women’s organisations.
She said it was a continuum of the fight that began with women’s right to vote and she hoped the House realised how frustrated women were.
“This is a fight that has been going on for 124 years. It is time to step up with some solutions.
“It is time for women to get economic equality and that is going to take action.”
The bill would have required employers to tick a box on existing pay records to state whether the employee is male or female.
It would also have entitled employees or their representative access to the aggregated data of pay and gender for employees in their workplace doing the same kind of work.
The information could have been given to an independent reviewer if the employer believed it would compromise confidentiality.
The bill was designed to provide greater transparency of the gender pay gap in the interests of providing greater evidence to fight pay discrimination.
But it was opposed by National, Act, and United Future on the grounds it would add greater compliance to businesses and that it could compromise privacy.
Employers already have to keep pay records for six year recording their employees’ name, postal address, kind of work, type of agreement and expiry date, number of hours worked and pay for those hours in a pay period, method of calculation, and employment relations education leave taken.
Logie said New Zealand said it was unlawful in New Zealand to discriminate on the basis on of gender “and yet 45 years on from the Equal Pay Act women’s average hourly earnings are still 13.6 per cent less than men’s and that is 22.9 per cent for Maori women and 28.4 per cent for Pasifika women.”
There was some progress to redress the imbalance during the 1990s but since then, inequality had become entrenched.
“The way the gender pay imbalance has been tracking, it will take at least until 2062 before women finally get equal pay.”
She said the bill itself would not fix the problem but it would help address conscious and subconscious bias.
National MP Barbara Kuriger said the bill had merit and the Government was sympathetic to the aims of the bill.
She the bill posed “major privacy risks” especially for small business owners with a small number of employees.
“It could breach the most basic of privacy codes.”
She said the requirements in the bill would be “another layer of red tape.”
“People don’t mind complying with worthwhile issues,” she said.
Women’s Affairs Minister Paula Bennett in March challenged private sector employers to conduct voluntary gender pay audits and to declare the results. But she has not suggested it could become mandatory.
Logie said Norway, Sweden and Finland had similar provisions on their laws for income transparency and were in the top four countries in terms of income equality.
National, Act and United Future opposed it. Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party supported it.