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New Zealand cuts world-first equal pay deal for aged care workers

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The country’s 55,000 predominantly female aged care, disability and home support workers will receive pay rises between 15 and 50 per cent from July 1 in the historic settlement announced this week.

Aged care worker Kristine Bartlett. Credit: Stuff
Aged care worker Kristine Bartlett. Credit: Stuff

Currently workers make an average of $16 an hour, with most on the minimum wage of $15.75 an hour.

The increases will lift workers’ pay to between $19 and $23.50 an hour from 1 July, climbing to between $21.50 and $27 in July 2021, depending on the type of work and experience.

It’s the first legal settlement in New Zealand recognising some jobs pay less because they are mainly done by women, and was sparked by a case brought by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett against her employer Terranova Homes in 2012.

Lower wages for ‘women’s work’

She argued she had spent 20 years on very low pay because aged care is largely performed by women, with the Supreme Court eventually ruling in her favour.

Wages for New Zealand’s 22,000 aged care workers are determined by the government subsidy paid by the Ministry of Health for aged care services.

The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) says the decision, which follows 20 months of negotiations between the aged care operators, unions and the Government, will be a “game-changer” in a sector that has traditionally struggled to attract workers.

“This settlement brings our caregivers at least up to parity with their counterparts in public hospitals,” Chief Executive Simon Wallace said.

It’s an expensive deal – $2 billion over five years that will be footed by a $1.856 billion boost to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.

But for Ms Bartlett and her fellow female workers, it will make a world of difference.

“It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we’re being paid what we are actually worth,” she says.

Jill Donaldson

A practising aged care physiotherapist for the past 13 years, Jill has worked in more than 50 metropolitan and regional aged care homes. She has also toured care facilities across the US and Africa. She is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff that serve them.


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