Pay equity claims by four health worker groups – who argue they are historically undervalued and underpaid because they are female-dominated – are now all underway.

The first of the four claims was laid by nurses’ union NZNO back in June 2017, on behalf of its nursing, midwifery and health care assistant members, but the claim was caught up in last year’s protracted and strained salary negotiations between union and the DHBs so formal work only started in February.

The three unions and DHBs confirm that the four accepted claims are now being progressed with each of the claims at different points along the three stage pay equity process. (see background details below plus related articles on nursing and midwifery claims).

The DHB clerical workers’ claim, lodged on their behalf by the Public Service Association in April last year, is first off the block to start a gender neutral assessment of what skills, responsibilities and demands are required of this group of health workers. The PSA has also lodged a claim for its DHB allied health and technical members and is party to the nurses’ pay equity claim.

The right for a fourth – separate and discreet from nurses – pay equity claim process for hospital midwives was recently negotiated between the midwifery union MERAS and DHBs, and agreed to by NZNO.  It follows in the wake of strikes by MERAS midwives late last year, and in February, seeking a separate pay scale to registered nurses in recognition that they are two distinct professions.

The nurses and midwifery claims are the only two claims that have the DHBs’ commitment to a timeline with December 31 set as the date for settlement of the pay equity claims.

Interviews revealing of complexities of roles

In support of the clerical workers’ claim nearly 100 DHB clerical workers and administrative staff across three DHBs have been interviewed using a gender neutral, job evaluation questionnaire.

This was the first time the health sector has used the questionnaire – that was designed to remove gender bias and reveal hidden or undervalued skills and job demands that traditional job evaluation processes missed.

Ashok Shankar, the PSA’s DHB national organiser, carried out a number of the clerical worker job evaluation interviews himself and found that often nobody had ever sat down and talked to the hospital workers about what they actually do.

He said it was fascinating realising the array of people a ward clerk interacts with during the day from families to consultants.  “One of the things that came through was the constant interruptions and mind shifts they have to face.”  Shankar said they need good self-management skills to get their own allocated tasks done as they can have at least 50 people come up during the day asking them to do something else instead. “And the skills needed in rapid shifts of concentration never get picked up in the usual job evaluation methodologies.”

Also they do not recognise the emotional and sensory demands required, for example, being a clerical worker in an emergency department or ICU after a tragedy like the Christchurch mosque shootings.

He said some of the 97 people involved were interviewed in occupational groups, for example ward clerks, and the results of the interview and individual interviews were used to draw up summaries of about 11 different clerical and admin roles.

Shankar said the next step was to interview people working in the chosen comparator occupations with the claimants approaching some large private sector firms as well as some employers in the state sector.

Allied health and technical ‘quite complicated’

To date the least advanced of the four pay equity claims is the most complicated one – the PSA’s claim for the allied health and technical roles.

Shankar said they had identified at least 45 different allied health and technical roles in the DHB sector.  “However when you look at the different job titles there are between 120-130 different titles in existence – mostly within small technical groups – and we don’t know whether DHBs have just given the jobs different names or whether they are distinctly different roles.”

“So there is quite a lot of investigation that has to be done to determine this first.” 


  • Nearly 80% of the 73,280 employees working for the 20 DHBs are women
  • About 89% of the 27,700 DHB nurses are women
  • 81% of DHB allied and scientific staff are women
  • 78% of DHB corporate, clerical and ‘other’ staff are women
  • Just over half (52%) of DHB junior doctors are women compared to 38% of senior doctors.

*Source: DHB Employed Workforce Quarterly Review (1 October to December 31 2018) prepared by TAS


  1. Setting up the process:
  • Agreeing that claim meets pay equity principle i.e. work predominantly performed by women, work currently or historically undervalued and/or there has been gender-based systemic undervaluation affecting pay.
  • Setting scope and terms of reference for claim
  • Identifying DHBs for job assessment interviews and training interviewers
  1. Assessing the claim:
  • Interview health workers from the claimant groups using special job evaluation questionnaire designed to be gender neutral and reveal hidden or undervalued skills and knowledge – see factors explored below.
  • Analyse results and agree on comparator workplaces and jobs in traditionally male-dominated fields
  • Interview workers in comparator occupations using the same gender neutral questionnaire.
  • Compare pay between the claimants and the comparators
  1. Settling the Claim:
  • Analyse the undervaluation research plus the job evaluation and pay comparisons between the claimants’ and the comparators’ occupations.
  • Negotiate and conclude pay equity claim.

Gender neutral job evaluation factors

Skill factors

Knowledge and understanding


Interpersonal skills

Physical skills

Responsibilities factors

People leadership

Information resources

Organisational outcomes

Services to people

Demands Factors

Emotional demands

Sensory demands

Physical demands

Working conditions

PAY EQUITY TIMELINE (from 1960 until today)


  • Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 introduced equal pay (same pay for same work) legislation into the public service.


  • Equal Pay Act 1972 extends equal pay to the private sector.


“Nurses are worth more” campaign



  • NZNO’s Fair Pay campaign for DHB nurses and midwives begins


  • Fair Pay “jolt” ratified for DHB nurses and midwives


  • E tū lodges a claim on behalf of Terra Nova care worker Kristine Bartlett with the Employment Relations Authority claiming systemic undervaluation of care and support work because it was mainly carried out by women.


  • Court of Appeal decision in Terranova v Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU now known as E tū) and Bartlett(the Terranova Case) agrees that the Equal Pay Act 1972 requires equal pay for work of equal value (pay equity), not simply the same pay for the same work.
  • College of Midwives lodges pay equity claim for self-employed midwives under the Bill of Rights Act after incomes stagnate for the female-dominated profession. (Leads to mediation and ongoing negotiations for a new funding model based on pay equity principles.)
  • Joint working group established of unions, employers, MBIE and State Services Commission to develop and recommend pay equity principles for female-dominated workforces


  • Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles reports to Government



  • Pay equity settlement extended to also cover mental health and addiction support workers backdated to July 1 2017
  • Pay equity claims also lodged by PSA for its DHB members including clerical workers, mental health/public health nurses (including health care assistants) and allied health/technical staff. Hospital midwives’ union MERAS also lodges pay equity claim for employed midwives.
  • Government announces pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki social workers (first to use the Pay Equity Principles
  • Revised Equal Pay Amendment Bill, that seeks to improve pay equity claim process, was introduced to Parliament in September. As at March 2019 it was at the stage of the Select Committee hearing submissions.


  • DHBs and unions progressing pay equity claims on behalf of four groupings of DHB health workers: nurses (including health care assistants), clerical workers, hospital midwives and allied health/scientific staff.
  • The nurse and midwifery pay equity claims both have a settlement date of December 31 this year. (ie. any settlement agreed to would either start being implemented from December 31 or backdated to that date.)



Men and women paid the same amount for doing the same work.


Men and women paid the same for doing work of equal value.


  1. I want to know why there is a difference in Admin wages between different DHB’s. I worked for CMDHB then moved back to Wellington. I dropped $6.00 per hour in pay. I did the same job in Auckland that I am doing in Wellington. In fact in Wellington I do more, doing the same job for less money. Same living costs in Wellington as it is in Auckland. Gone are the days where there was a difference.
    I am whats is called a Mobile Ward Administrator a relief Ward Administrator. I like to call myself a relief ward clerk because I am in no way on an Administrators wage. We on the team give up our nights our weekends to cover the areas that need cover. We need to train in every ward in the Hospital also in other Departments such as Outpatients, Theatre. Also cover between another Hospital (Kenepuru). Shouldn’t this also be taken into consideration. I have read nothing to support this.
    I thought that the pay Equity was supposed to narrow the gap between the DHB’s

  2. Question:
    If/when a pay parity settlement amount is agreed for RNs – be it in % or a substantive figure – will this amount be instantly added on top of one’s annual salary & is amount totally separate from the impending MECA negotiations that will aim to cover 2020 onwards.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here