New bill to 'give teeth' to Equal Pay Act

A new bill targeting unequal pay would "give teeth" to current employment laws by improving the ability to test for gender-based discrimination, Green MP Catherine Delahunty says.

Ms Delahunty today released a member's bill that would amend the Equal Pay Act to require employers to record the gender of their employees along with current reporting requirements.

"One way to close the gender pay gap is to make sure the existing Equal Pay Act is being enforced," Ms Delahunty said.

"My bill gives teeth to the Equal Pay Act and makes it relevant in the 21st century."

The proposed changes meant workers and unions would be able to request information on pay levels by gender in their workplaces to assess whether the Equal Pay Act was being applied.

Ms Delahunty said the law surrounding gender equality needed a much bigger overhaul, but ensuring the current laws were being applied correctly was a first step.

The bill was welcomed by unions, who said it was an important move toward making the pay gap visible.

Paul Goulter, the national secretary of education sector union NZEI, said the changes would give low-paid women welcome ammunition in the fight for equity.

"It is good to see someone moving forward on the issue," he said.

"Giving women access to gender pay details in their workplaces will make it hard for the Government and employers to ignore the fact that the gender pay gap is alive and well and that thousands of women are being denied the pay and opportunities they deserve."

Service and Food Workers Union president Barbara Wyeth said the bill was part of a jigsaw of actions urgently needed.

"The pay gap between men and women is our members' daily reality," she said.

"There is an invisible army of women out there, many of whom are the main income earners or only income earners in their families, struggling to feed those families on as little as $13 an hour."

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