This week witnessed a historic victory for the equal pay movement here in New Zealand. Following lengthy litigation, a settlement was reached with the New Zealand Government providing workers in the woman-dominated care working industry a significant uptick on their hourly pay rates. Bringing them in line with what male counterparts make in similar roles this will see carers on the minimum wage get an increase between 15 to 49 percent depending on qualifications.
A big deal has been made about this, and rightly so. Things like this don’t really happen in New Zealand where the pay gap has stuck firm at 12% for the past decade and where there is only one female CEO leading an NZX50 company (Kate McKenzie at Spark).
But the bigger deal is what this means for all the other industries out there where women are still fighting to be on the same financial footing as their male colleagues. The ramifications are huge. This one victory will cost the Government more than $2 billion and there is already talk of similar packages being sought in other industries too.
At this stage all of those industries are also in the public sector, but the spotlight is sure to swing across to the private sector soon, particularly in industries dominated by women.
One such industry is our very own recruitment sector, and this announcement thrusts us abruptly into the front line of the pay equality movement. Not that we recruiters are shy of the spotlight. Often barometers for economic activity and employment levels, we’re also a bunch who have been talking more and more about diversity ahead of this deal, in online articles and also at recent Meet Ups in Wellington and Auckland with Katy Anquetil a constant leading voice around the pay equality topic.
As an industry, particularly on the agency side, the presence of commission-earning potential can often mask pay inequality in terms of base salaries and other benefits. A lower base salary can be batted away by the less generous recruitment Directors out there who will claim that this means a lower threshold and therefore quicker access to commission. Some recruiter packages are indeed set up where this makes sense, but in my experience more often than not a quick calculation will prove this to be totally disingenuous.
This ruling certainly provides our recruitment industry an opportunity to take stock of our own salary structures for our own staff, and I would encourage all recruitment bosses to do this well ahead of when it is eventually mandated of them.
But more than that, this is an opportunity for recruiters to more confidently negotiate offers on behalf of their candidates. Good recruiters should know market rates for the roles they are filling, so should know if an offer is an attempted low-ball based on gender. But whereas men have traditionally been more aggressive salary negotiators than women, a key factor in the existence of the pay gap, recruiters should view this as an opportunity to stand firmer on behalf of their candidate’s expectations.
You should hopefully have been doing this already. But now you really have no excuse not to.