- Caregiver Kristine Bartlett lodged her claim with the Employment Relations Authority in 2012, alleging her employer Terranova Homes and Care Ltd was in breach of the Equal Pay Act.
- Ms Bartlett argued that Terranova paid her less than would be made to male employees with substantially similar skills, responsibility and service, performing the work under the same conditions and with the same degrees of effort
- Terranova pays its female and male caregivers the same rates, but Ms Bartlett argued the pay rate for both was depressed due to a systemic undervaluation of the work, based on gender discrimination.
- Ms Bartlett’s case was referred to the Employment Court as it raises an important question of law.
- A preliminary Employment Court hearing on questions of law was held in June 2013. Because of the importance of this case, the questions of law were determined by three of the Employment Court’s five judges rather than the usual one.
- The judgment favoured the plaintiffs’ arguments about the jurisdiction and application of the Equal Pay Act 1972, allowing the case to proceed to its second, substantive stage which will involve evidence on Ms Bartlett’s skills, responsibility, service and conditions in her job caring for the elderly, how those compare with those of appropriate male comparators and what she should be fairly paid. To read the Employment Court judgment click here.
- The substantive hearing was delayed after the Court made a preliminary decision that it could take into account evidence of male pay levels in other industries.
- In January 2014, Terranova appealed the Employment Court’s ruling to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard in the Court of Appeal in February.
- In October 2014 the Court of Appeal upheld the Employment Court’s decision. It confirmed that in determining what a hypothetical male, with the same or substantially similar skills, responsibility and service performing the work would be paid, the Court may take account of the remuneration paid in other sectors. To read the Appeal Court judgment click here.
- Terranova/NZACA appealed the Appeal Court judgment to the Supreme Court, requesting the court settle questions around the Equal Pay Act.
- The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. Although the Court agreed the issue was of public importance, it regarded the appeal as premature, saying Ms Bartlett's substantive claim should be determined by the Employment Court and Court of Appeal before it considers other issues arising from it. To read the Supreme Court decision click here.
- Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announces the Government will be entering into negotiations over pay rates for care and support workers. Unions and providers, including NZACA will take part in the Ministry of Health-facilitated negotiations. Read the Government's media release.
- At the same the government announced a proposal to set up a Joint Working Group to develop principles for dealing with claims of pay equity under the Equal Pay Act. Note, this media release incorrectly stated the union had called off legal action. Read the Government's media release.
- The union has not called off its legal action as a result of the Government-facilitated negotiations, so the court case will proceed as scheduled.
- The case was scheduled to go before the Employment Court in November 2015, but was adjourned in October 2015 until early 2016 (dates to be determined).
- The Court will set out general principles for implementing equal pay. These are likely to include guidance on identifying appropriate comparators, how to obtain remuneration evidence from other comparator groups and how to assess and evaluate issues relating to systemic undervaluation. After the general principles have been established, the Employment Court will assess the particulars of Ms Bartlett’s claim.
- There is potential for the plaintiff or the defendant to appeal the Employment Court ruling to the Court of Appeal and potentially to the Supreme Court.
The Ministry of Health-facilitated negotiations started in November, involving government officials, unions and employer representatives (including NZACA).
- Bilateral negotiations continue between the government and unions.
- On 8 June, the Government’s Joint Working Group, set up in October 2015 to develop principles to that provide practical guidance to employers and employees in implementing pay equity, announces its recommendations. These are currently being considered by Ministers.
- The guiding principles the JWG is recommending change nothing as far as the equal pay case negotiations are concerned, however they do provide a set of guidance for employers economy-wide on future pay equity claims.
- Positively, the principles are in line with what NZACA and other employer representatives have been advocating for in the equal pay case negotiations. In particular, they recommend that pay equity claims should be negotiated on the basis of skills, responsibilities, conditions of work and that work done by the female-dominated group must be compared with “appropriate comparators”.
- In the meantime, negotiations continue to find a solution to the caregiver equal pay case. Since April 2016, these have been bi-lateral negotiations between the Government and unions. NZACA continues to fully support and encourage the negotiations to find a solution so the case does not have to return to court.
- The Government-facilitated negotiations are continuing. Government representatives are meeting separately with the union and with providers, including NZACA.
- On 18 April, the Government announced a settlement in the Pay Equity Case.
- On 02 May the settlement agreement was signed between Government and unions.
- On 08 June the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement bill passed unanimously in Parliament.