Urgent pressure is being placed on the Government to make employers open up their pay scales and progression opportunities to ensure women are not being paid or promoted less than their male counterparts.

The Human Rights Commission has today launched a Pay Transparency campaign, asking for the Government to urgently address pay transparency in the workplace to close the gender pay gap and set up an independent body to ensure transparency in reporting about pay equity.

The HRC is also collecting signatures for a petition calling on the Government to include pay transparency in legislation. So far more than 1500 people have signed the petition.

The National Council of Women president Vanisa Dhiru says employers need to be good and fair leaders and pay people fairly. Photo / Doug Sherring
The National Council of Women president Vanisa Dhiru says employers need to be good and fair leaders and pay people fairly. Photo / Doug Sherring

As part of the new campaign four women have shared how they have missed out on promotions or been made to work harder for it because of their gender, colour or ethnicity.

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Nia Bartley, a Wellington-based Public Service Association health delegate, said as a Pacific woman it was wrong that she had to make extra effort and jump through more hoops than others.

Auckland social worker Lauren Bartley said social workers, the majority of whom were women, were almost conditioned to think that they did their jobs for the love of it and not for the pay and were expected to live with it.

"Because it's a female dominated workforce it has been underpaid forever," she said.

"As women, as social workers we shouldn't be settling for that. We wouldn't settle for that for our communities, for the people we work with. I think the era of getting paid less than we should be is over."

Bartley, who has only been a social worker for two years, said she noticed that those starting their careers with the same degrees at the same time had all started on different levels of pay and said having transparent pay scales would address this.

The aim of having pay transparency would ensure people in similar or comparable roles are all being paid fairly. It would also aid employees with enough information to make a pay equity claim against employers, according to the HRC.

Christchurch woman Nancy McShane said pay transparency would make it much easier to prove that people were being paid unfairly.

"Without pay transparency, it is sort of like fighting fog. You are trying to validate to yourself and others that this problem exists. If we have pay transparency in place, then it's a much easier process. We need to work a lot harder on creating a fair and equitable society."

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Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo said New Zealand needed pay transparency because workers, especially Māori, Pacific and Asian women, were being undervalued and underpaid in the workplace.

"Many are parents, carers or the main income earners for their households. We need to stop talking about fairness and dignity and just get on with it."

She said making pay visible would be a big step in eliminating discrimination within the workplace and help New Zealand close the gender and ethnic pay gaps.

The HRC has partnered with the Public Service Association, Council of Trade Unions, National Council of Women, YWCA, Pacifica, Diversity Works, Rural Women New Zealand, Women in Urbanism, Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay and the Women Empowerment Principles Committee to lobby the Government for equal pay.

National Council of Women national president Vanisa Dhiru questioned how employers who were knowingly paying some staff less than other for doing the same thing could be fair and good leaders.

The Council of Trade Unions said collective employment agreements were one way of ensuring pay transparency and open systems were followed by all employers.