FAQs about the pay equity claim

 

What is a pay equity claim?

A pay equity claim is made by workers or a union under the Equal Pay Amendment Act, which came into force on 6 November 2020. A claim must be for gender-based systemic undervaluation of roles, which has affected the remuneration of people performing those roles. It can’t be about low pay that is not about gender discrimination.

 

How did the current claim come about?

In 2018, a pay equity claim was settled for Oranga Tamariki social workers. The settlement established the case for the under-valuation of Oranga Tamariki social workers in what has historically been a female dominated occupation. It was a significant step forward for pay equity for social workers in Aotearoa. However, social workers in the community sector were not included in the settlement. Significant pay inequity still exists for social workers in the community sector — which includes Iwi social services, kaupapa Māori services, NGO and all community social services.

In 2019, the PSA lodged two separate pay equity claims to address this. The first covers people in social work roles in the community sector, and the second covers a wide range of workers who support the delivery of community social services—from assessment and advocacy to administrative and clerical work.

The claim for people in social work roles is being addressed first. We hope the settlement of this claim will streamline the process for the second claim.

 

Who are the parties to the claim?

The claim was lodged by the PSA against five employers of people in social work roles: Barnardos, Christchurch Methodist Mission, Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services, Stand Tū Maia and Wellington Sexual Abuse Help. SSPA is coordinating the response for the five employers, and working to represent the interests of the wider sector.

Oranga Tamariki has been designated by government as the lead funding agency for the claim. Oranga Tamariki’s role is to provide advice and support for the process, to advise Government and to coordinate with other government departments that fund social services.

PSA, SSPA and the five employers in the claim agree it is vital that any settlement must be extended to all community social workers. It is therefore seen as a representative claim on behalf of the whole sector. We are committed to pay equity for all social workers in the community sector, not for the five employers alone.

 

What outcomes are being sought from the current claim?                         

We are seeking pay equity for community social workers and parity with their Oranga Tamariki counterparts. A whole-of-sector solution is required: any settlement for the current claim must be applied across the wider sector.

We are also seeking a clear and streamlined process to address the pay issues facing other social service workers.

Our community social services also need full and fair funding of contracted services. We are raising this as a separate but related issue alongside the settlement process. This builds on previous advocacy mahi that SSPA has undertaken with government and publicly on the need for fair funding for community social services.

Pay equity must not result in any reduction to social worker numbers and services. Community based social workers play an essential role in supporting child, rangatahi and family and whānau outcomes and we will be ensuring maintenance of services is recognised in the negotiations.

 

How are the funding issues being addressed with government?

The PSA and the five employers will be bargaining to reach a desired settlement to the claim (following the process under the Equal Pay Act 1972, as amended with the passing of the Equal Pay Amendment Act 2020). In parallel, there will be discussions with Oranga Tamariki in its capacity as the lead funding agency, about how funding will address any proposed settlement. A settlement will only be reached when the funding to give effect to it is assured by government as the employers are not in any position to fund any deal without additional funding. 

The parties to the claim are clear that this is a representative claim and that it is vital any settlement be extended to all community social workers. This has been discussed with government officials and there is collaborative work to understand the potential implications for the sector and what a solution for all will look like. 

 

What stage is the claim at?

 In 2019, the PSA lodged two seperate pay equity claims against five community social services. The first covers people in social work roles in the community sector, and the second covers a wide range of workers who support the delivery of community social services—from assessment and advocacy to administrative and clerical work.

The claim for people in social work roles is being addressed first. We hope the settlement of this claim will streamline the process for the second claim.

The government has established a complex, six-milestone framework for working through pay equity claims. We are working through this for the first claim (for people in social work roles) and have completed the first four milestones:

  1. Claim lodged and agreed as arguable: complete
  2. Terms of reference agreed by employers and union: complete
  3. Work assessment for comparability: complete
  4. Assessment against comparator groups to quantify pay disparity: complete
  5. Develop bargaining strategy: underway now
  6. Bargaining/settlement process: aiming for completion by December 2021

 

What has the pay equity assessment found?

The pay equity assessment undertaken through milestones three and four has found that community social workers do work that is comparable to the work of Oranga Tamariki social workers. The assessment used an approved methodology—the Equitable Job Evaluation tool—that measures a range of factors and assesses skill, demands and responsibility as well as the level of complexity.

The next stage of the process was to assess pay rates and to compare them with the rates for Oranga Tamariki social workers since the pay equity settlement.

The assessment found that, on average, community social workers are paid 34% less than Oranga Tamariki social workers. For the community social workers, we found the average hourly rate was $28.51, compared with $43.21 for Oranga Tamariki social workers—a pay gap of $14.70 per hour.

The 2018 Oranga Tamariki pay equity settlement increased the pay scales for Oranga Tamariki social workers to $60,000 for a new starter and $100,000 at the top of the range. The current range for qualified social workers in the provider representative group under the current pay equity claim is from $51,500 to $65,750, with the median at $58,662.  Most community social workers, no matter how experienced, are earning less than newly qualified social workers employed at Oranga Tamariki.

 

What are the next steps in the claim process?

Our focus now is on developing our bargaining strategy for the pay equity claim, and how any settlement can be rolled out across the wider sector. We are effectively working through two parallel processes – agreeing the pay equity settlement with the PSA for the five employers and working to agree funding for a settlement and develop a sector solution with the funders at the same time.

 

How long does it take for a pay equity claim to be completed? 

There is no set timeframe. It is a complex and detailed process and there is still a way to go. All parties are mindful of the effect of the pay equity gap on social workers and the organisations they work for, and will reach a settlement as quickly as possible.

 

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