Telling migrant caregivers with nursing degrees they are ineligible for the top of the new caregiver pay scale without more study is ‘an insult’, says the president of the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand.

Careerforce put out a press release yesterday stating that care and support workers holding nursing degrees from the Philippines, India, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom had been assessed as holding a qualification a step below what was required to get the new top caregiver pay rate of $23.50 an hour.

The overseas trained nurses are being told that for the purposes of the $2 Billion pay equity settlement their three or four year degrees are the equivalent of the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 3) which can be gained with 20 weeks fulltime study.

This is despite compatriots, who meet all the Nursing Council criteria for nurse registration in New Zealand, still being eligible to have the same or similar degrees assessed as the equivalent of a Level 7 New Zealand degree.

Under the Care and Support Worker (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 workers need to have the equivalent of the Level 4 Certificate – or have 12 years experience – to be eligible for the top caregiver pay rate from July 1 of $23.50.

Ray Lind, chief executive of the Careerforce industry training organisation, said workers with degree level qualifications from those five countries had now been assessed as requiring to complete two additional unit standards to ensure they met the cultural competency equivalency required for a Level 4 certificate.

Monina Hernandez, president of the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand (FNANZ), said assessing overseas nursing degrees as the equivalent of a level three certificate was a “huge insult” to nursing education in all of the five countries. And it also had implications for the salaries of migrant caregivers with nursing degrees.

Dr Jed Montayre, another FNAZ member who has worked in the aged care sector, said he believed that care and support workers with nursing degrees from the named countries, should be considered for pay equity purposes as having the equivalent of a Level 4 certificate. “They shouldn’t be required to do further unit standards to be at level 4.”

Carolyn Reed, chief executive of the Nursing Council, stressed that the Careerforce decision only related to the care and support workers pay equity settlement and reassured applicants that the decision did not affect the Nursing Council registration process.

“Our role is to protect public safety and we will continue to assess people’s qualifications on an individual basis if they come to use seeking registration.”

Including ensuring that applicants are registered with the relevant nursing authority and have successfully completed a nursing programme that, in the Council’s opinion, is equivalent to a bachelors degree on Level 7 of the qualifications framework.

Hernandez said there was a “huge discrepancy” between potentially the same nursing degree being assessed as a Level 3 qualification for pay equity purposes and as a Level 7 degree by the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

She said it was insulting to ask, for example, a Filipino caregiver with a four year nursing degree, to do additional unit standards to reach a Level 4 qualification.

The decision could also be seen as ensuring a cheap migrant workforce for the aged care sector and at the same making money out of migrants having to pursue further study.

Hernandez pointed out that the comprehensive curriculum of the Philippines’ four year nursing degree – which covers nursing care across the lifespan as well as research, pharmacology, transcultural nursing and biochemistry – could not be compared with the narrow Level 3 certificate qualification.

In the Careerforce statement Lind said the ITO had recently been tasked to establish whether existing or expired care and support qualifications, including international qualifications, were equivalent to New Zealand Health and Wellbeing qualifications for pay equity purposes

On the Careerforce website it says that after further information “came to light” it had changed its initial assessment and international nurses with degree level qualifications had now been assessed for pay equity purposes as having equivalency to the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 3), provided their degree was obtained from the five countries named

It says to move up to the equivalent to the Level 4 New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Advanced Support) for pay equity purposes the international nurses would have to complete assessments in the following unit standards:

  • (28989) Apply strategies to support cultural diversity and
  • (28543) Describe culturally safe Māori operating principles and values and their application in a health or wellbeing setting.

A Careerforce spokesperson said the enrolment fee for the two unit standards was $85 and, while it was hard to determine how long it would take to meet the workplace-based competency standards, it was likely on average to take trainees less than six months. “And many trainees may have been working in their sectors for a long time and so it shouldn’t take long for them to demonstrate these competencies,” said the spokesperson.


  1. I think the decision is quite fair. After all, no nursing training program from the oversea emphasises on NZ strategies and Maori cultural safety, doesn’t it? So, to give high-quality care that deserves the top scale pay, those nurses need to study more about these kinds of stuff. It’s just an issue about money, not about respect.


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