Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Wage equality for carers to be tested in court

Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Caregiver Kristine Bartlett believes her hourly wage of $14.46 is less than what would be paid to male employees with the same or similar skills.

And she's about to test pay equality in court.

Ms Bartlett, of Lower Hutt, took TerraNova Homes and Care to the Employment Relations Authority last year alleging a breach of the 40-year-old Equal Pay Act and the Employment Relations Act.

"I don't think people really acknowledge or recognise our work and the skills that we have for the pay rate we get - it's just unfair," she said.

"It's exhausting, it's demanding and unless somebody stands up and fights, they just will not do anything and recognise how hard it is. We do it because we love it."

Ms Bartlett said she plans on retiring in the next few years so would not benefit from the changes if she wins her case, but wants to do it for the next generation.

"That's why I've stepped forward and have challenged this pay equity court case that we're going for. Since 1972 we've been fighting for women to be equal against men."

Women in the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector last year earned $11.63 less on average an hour than men, according to Statistics New Zealand figures.

Ms Bartlett, who has worked in the care industry for 21 years, said it's frustrating working so hard and knowing that men who have similar skills are being paid more.

Her case was referred to the Employment Court and the Service and Food Workers Union will take it on Ms Bartlett's behalf.

The union said aged care employers and the Government that funds them are in breach of the Equal Pay Act 1972 because of their failure to address the very low pay rates in the sector.

Only six of TerraNova's 117 carers are men. It argues none of its female employees are paid less than men in the same roles.

Legal experts believe the case, set to be heard in June, could pave the way for future claims.

- NZ Herald

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