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Glaring pay discrimination issues revealed by Human Rights Commission research

Lack of transparency by employers around pay is being considered as one of the key issues around pay discrimination in New Zealand.

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There are significant issues with pay transparency and disparities for Māori and Pacific and women. Source: Breakfast

Māori, and Pacific peoples and women are disproportionately paid less than other groups but new research has aimed to find out the impact of that and how to stop it.

The research, commissioned by the Humans Rights Condition, found just 15 per cent of employment ads publicly display the pay brackets.

Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo says it means from the get-go, people are disempowered.

"When someone says, 'What are your expectations for the job?' you've got no idea," she told Breakfast this morning.

"And if you pitch too low, you're vulnerable... What we're trying to do is shift that sense of powerlessness away from average Kiwi and place it on those who have a duty to uphold human rights."

When people do find out they're being underpaid, they're not likely to speak out about it.

"They don't complain because they fear they're going to lose their job, or they fear they're going to upset their workers," Dr Sumeo says.

Around half of people being paid more than $100,000 have negotiated their pay, while only 14 per cent of those on less than $40,000 have negotiated theirs.

With around 85 per cent of New Zealand's population on less than $100,000, it's concerning, Dr Sumeo says.

The issues around pay transparency and discrimination doesn't necessarily mean everyone needs to be paid on a flat rate, either.

"One of the things that's come out is that people accept that if you have more experience, if you've got the skills, if you've got the qualifications, of course that should be acknowledged in the pay," Dr Sumeo says.

"There's no dispute about that. It's when you have all of that and you're still being paid less, that's the problem."

The research was conducted by Research NZ before lockdown began and included an online survey and focus groups.