Timeline What happened when?

Married Women's Property Protection Act gives married women protection over their own property.


The Electoral Act 1893 gives all women the right to vote. This was a monumental victory for suffragettes and the 32,000 women who signed petitions to present to parliament. The case for equal pay has not been so fortunate.


Divorce Act finally makes conditions of divorce equal for men and women


Contagious Diseases Act (this Act had enabled police to require the medical inspection of women suspected of being ‘common prostitutes’ in case they had venereal disease)


The Women’s Parliamentary Rights Act gave women the right to stand for Parliament. Three women contested seats at the 1919 general election, but none were successful.


The Labour Party first adopts equal pay as one of their policies.


The Great Depression effectively halts progress, with wage cuts, rising unemployment and the abandonment of women’s recruitment into the public service.


World War II saw an influx of women into the workforce, primarily in the public service or holding down temporary clerical positions for men away at war. The Women’s Committee of the Public Service Association was established in 1943 to inform women of the need for equal pay and recruit female union members to the cause.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is formed. ‘Everyone, without discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.’


The Jean Parker case drew attention to the employment conditions of women in the public service. Parker was an employee of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). The Public Service Commission (PSC) at the time operated different rates of salary progression, and men’s were far higher than women’s. Parker’s appeal to the Supreme Court was successful, but the PSC instructed the IRD to reduce Parker’s salary and responsibilities. An energetic campaign from women workers to reverse the PSC’s decision resulted in an agreement to reinstate Parker’s position and salary.


The Government Service Equal Pay Act specifically eliminated differentiations in pay based on sex among government workers. There are minimal flow-on effects into the private sector.


The Equal Pay Act is passed by the National government, extending equal pay into the private sector. The legislation followed twelve years of campaigning, an Australian court ruling requiring equal pay in the private sector, and a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Over its five-year rollout period, the Equal Pay Act closed the gap by five percentage points, but a sizable gap of 13% still remains today.


The Convention on the Elimination of (All Forms of) Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty described as “an international bill of rights for women,” is adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It specifies the right to equal remuneration and equal treatment in respect of work of equal value. The convention was ratified by NZ in 1985, meaning we are legally bound to make sure all of our legislation aligns with the convention.


ILO Convention 111 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) ratified in NZ. The Convention called on member governments to ensure application of 'the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value' through 'objective appraisal of jobs'.


The Ministry of Women’s Affairs [now the Ministry for Women] is established under the Labour government.

They had an active feminist agenda, and a lot of women at the top. Margaret Shields, and Helen Clarks and so on were in the Cabinet or around it. That was a climate for progress to happen.

Prue Hyman

In NZ, rape within marriage is now a crime.


Clerical Workers Union v Farmers Trading Company bring a case under the Equal Pay Act to the Arbitration Court.  The 30,000-strong union, 90% of whom were female claimed their wage award was a “depressed female rate.” This was the first pay equity case in New Zealand. However, the court declined to adjudicate and the case was rejected.


The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (BORA) comes into effect. BORA affirms everyone has the right to freedom from discrimination on grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act. This extends through to pay and employment.


The Employment Equity Act is passed under the Labour government after years of negotiations. 

It was very compromised legislation. It covered both equal employment opportunity, which was also important for larger firms, they would have to have policy programs, not only in the private sector but it carried on in the public sector. But National got rid of it in 1990 in the private sector. It covered both EEO [equal employment opportunity]  and equal pay for work of equal value was the second half of the act. And it brought in clearer mechanisms than were in the Equal Pay Act itself, and the right to take claims and so on. And that had just got underway, but it only got passed in 1990 and then National got it at the end of 1990. Practically the first thing they did was repeal the legislation. So it never had any effect. So that pushed us back to only relying on the Equal Pay Act, again.

Prue Hyman

The Employment Contracts Act 1991 allows individual or collective contracts with a single employer. Unions spent the next decade speaking up together for the right to bargain collectively. Union memberships, particularly among women in smaller workplaces were reduced drastically. Pay systems also became more hidden, reducing one’s ability to find out the wages of coworkers and similar positions within areas of work. How the heck can you discover whether you’ve got equal pay if you don’t know what other people are paid? - Prue Hyman


The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex, marital status, religious/ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic/national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, sexual orientation. It is “unlawful to offer any employee less favourable terms of employment than other applicants or employees of same or substantially similar capabilities employed in the same or substantially similar circumstances.” The Human Rights Commission resolves disputes through mediation or refer the case to the Employment Court.


Jenny Shipley became New Zealand’s first female prime minister, after replacing Jim Bolger as leader of the National Party.


Labour’s Helen Clark became New Zealand’s first elected female prime minister following the general election in November 1999. Clark would be PM for nine years, becoming New Zealand's 5th-longest-serving PM.


The Employment Relations Act introduces ‘good faith bargaining’ between employers, employees and unions. It also provides personal grievance procedures for alleged discrimination on grounds of sex (as well as against sexual harassment, unjustified dismissal or duress in regard to union membership).


Kristine Bartlett, a rest home worker from Lower Hutt and her union E tu, brings a case against Terranova, her employers. Paid only 70c above minimum wage despite her twenty-year career caring for frail and elderly people, Bartlett claimed that her skills, responsibility, service and conditions of work were undervalued because caring for the elderly is done almost entirely by women. The Employment Court ruled in favour of Kristine Bartlett, allowing gender neutral job comparisons with jobs performed by males outside of the female-dominated care sector. Bartlett v Terranova was an important test of New Zealand law, especially considering the last equal pay for equal value case under the Equal Pay Act, for clerical workers, was rejected in 1986.


In response to the success of Kristine Bartlett’s and her union’s claim, a Joint Working Group on Equal Pay established with representatives of unions, business and the government. Agreed principles for progressing equal pay cases were agreed and released publicly on 7June 2016. The Government agreed to implement the principles (with one additional principle on using comparators) on 24 November 2017.


The Government has promised to pass legislation this year implementing the Joint Working Group Equal Pay principles.


Women are still wait for equal pay. It's time to Treat her Right. 

Jinki Cambronero