Business and Human Rights


There are many areas of business and public life where human rights issues can arise. Here’s an overview of some of the current issues we are involved with, and what’s being done. 

Aged care sector

The Commission has reported its findings of its inquiry into the equal employment opportunity issues in the aged care workforce. The inquiry team considered workforce issues raised by employees and employers in the aged care sector. 


Read the Caring Counts report and recommendations

Gender pay gap

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap looks at the differences in pay for males and females and is used as a measure of gender inequality in the labour market. In 2015, New Zealand’s gender pay gap was 11.8% - up 2% from 2014.

There are a number of reasons for the gap and these include:

  • women generally being clustered in lower paid occupations, - 67% of the minimum wage earners aged between 25-64 years are women,
  • women not progressing through as they should to senior positions,
  • women having a different pattern of work (part time versus fulltime, unpaid work),
  • women not negotiating their salary or pay rises,
  •  following work breaks their career not continuing on the same trajectory,
  • pay discrimination,
  • unconscious bias and negative stereotypes of working mothers

The gender pay gap can be calculated across an organisation, by level or occupation and can be the mean/average or median difference in hourly rate, weekly or annual pay. 

While in New Zealand there isn’t an agreed formula to measure the gender pay gap, Statistics New Zealand prefers to use median hourly pay as they are less influenced by high earners, are usually a better measure of the pay a typical worker receives than averages and, because more women work part time, an hourly rate provides a more direct comparison.

Even when the data adjusted for occupation, experience and age, our gender pay gap still exists, which means factors such as discrimination and unconscious bias are at play. The argument that women make a “free” choice to follow certain careers is debatable, as powerful stereotypes and the need for a family friendly workplace may steer women to different careers.

You can read the Commission's own 2017 gender pay gap report here.


For more information about the gender pay gap, click on the links below to Statistics New Zealand and the Equal Pay in New Zealand websites.

Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the NZ Human Rights Commission, Angela McLeod of UN Women Aotearoa and Erin Ebborn of Ebborn Law discuss pay equity, the gender gap, and quotas. 

The business case for closing the gender pay gap in New Zealand 

For an employer to close the gender pay gap, there needs to be forensic analysis of the organisation’s equal employment opportunity metrics and the policies targeted at combating roadblocks that prevent women from being recruited or promoted in the organisation or when returning after career breaks.

In addition, the employer will need to carry out regular pay equity audits to ensure that jobs are being paid according to skill, effort and experiences.

What are the benefits of closing the gender pay gap: 

1) Attract the best employees

  • Having the best talent pool is critical to success in competitive markets. Women are more likely to have a higher education than men. In 2013, 57.8% of those with a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand were women. 

2) Enhance organisational performance

  • Studies suggest promoting gender equality is often associated with better organisational and financial performance.

3) Improve access to target markets

  • Women are estimated to control 65% of all spending decisions globally 
  • Household spending power will be boosted if women are paid the same as men, and this will increase the GDP of New Zealand.
  • Women are more likely to spend money in companies who have a good reputation, which will include a reputation for fairness and equality.

4) Enhance reputation

  • A reputation for promoting gender equality can help attract the best employees to an organisation, retain existing customers and attract new clientele, building market share. 

5) It’s good for the New Zealand Economy

  • Goldman Sachs estimated that closing the gender pay gap would boost the female employment rate, raising New Zealand’s GDP by 10 percent. 
  • The government will be able to collect more tax and there will be more spending on key areas such as education and health.
  • New Zealand also needs more workers to support its aging population in retirement.

Solution – Publish gender pay & bonus gaps

What can be measured, can be managed. Countries that have enforceable laws to deal with the gender pay gap, are ranked in the top 10 countries in the OECD for having the lowest gender pay gap. This includes Iceland, Sweden, Finland, the Philippines, Denmark and Norway.

At present, there is no legal requirement to publish pay rates in New Zealand like there is in other countries such as the UK and Australia. The Human Rights Commission is calling for a law change that would require companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay and bonus gaps and to advise how many women are at each level of the company every year. 

Take Action 

View Action Station's campaign to close the gender pay gap in New Zealand and sign their petition 

Family Violence and the Workplace 

Family violence is not a private matter; it is a crime. It is against the law to hurt, intimidate, threaten and control other people. Yet family violence remains throughout New Zealand homes and communities.   

Family violence undermines the physical and mental health, employment, housing, and education of families and whānau.  

It is estimated that family violence costs New Zealand businesses around $400million every year. The cost to our society is much, much greater.    

It makes good sense for businesses to do all they can to ensure safe and appropriate responses to family violence.  

From 1 April 2019, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants because they have experienced family violence.  

The Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act increased legal protections in the workplace for people affected by family violence. The main provisions are: protection from discrimination, access to additional leave to deal with the impacts of violence, and the ability to request flexible working arrangements.  

A new Workplace Policy Builder helps to give businesses assurance that they are complying with current law when developing a family violence policy. The tool builds on work the Human Rights Commission did with ANZ Bank, Countdown, EY, Fonterra, Ricoh, Vodafone and the Warehouse Group.

Public sector 

What's Working Report 

What’s Working? identifies what is working as we strive for fair and equitable employment for all New Zealand workers, across all groups, in the public sector workforce.

The report identified and profiled five departments who have excelled in one or more of these target areas: women, Māori, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

Crown Entities 'Good Employer' Guidance

Crown Entities and the Good Employer Annual Report Review

The Commission reviews and analyses the reporting of good employer obligations by Crown Entities in their annual reports, and provides good employer guidance. The annual Good Employer Review gives Crown entities an indicator report showing their reporting progress. 

Banking sector

Voluntary guidelines have been developed for banks to improve older and disabled peoples’ access to banking services. The guidelines were developed in consultation with representatives of older and disabled communities.


Voluntary guidelines to assist banks to meet the needs of older and disabled customers

Ageing workforce 

The Commission, in partnership with The Office for Senior Citizens, OCG Consulting and Lonergan Research Ltd, conducted an ageing workforce survey with Crown entities.


Valuing Experience 

Smart organisations are redesigning work to retain older workers, according to a new guide for New Zealand employers wanting to recruit and retain mature employees. 

Valuing Experience: a practical guide to recruiting and retaining older workers provides information on older worker’s rights and responsibilities, and tips for employers. The new resource was produced by a group comprising the Human Rights Commission, the Retirement Commission, the EEO Trust, Business New Zealand, the CTU and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce.


Young people at work

Young people are our future wage earners, decision makers and leaders. However, for many young people in Aotearoa New Zealand their right to work is greatly hindered. The risk of exclusion from employment remains greatest for Māori and Pacific young people, for young people in deprived areas including work-poor rural communities and for disabled young people. The Commission has looked for examples of effective solutions that have resulted in increased youth employment for these groups. This online resource shares what we found.


Breaking Through - Young People at Work

The Commission's Breaking Through - Young People At Work report aims to inform and inspire, and provide practical advice to employers on how young people can be employed. Every business is different and will have their own ideas and opportunities for action. 


Breaking Through At Work

Women at work 

The New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2012, the fifth bench-marked report on how women fare in many areas of professional and public life was released by the Human Rights Commission in 2012.

The 2012 Census showed a two to three percentage point increase in many areas for the representation of women at senior levels since the previous census in 2010. However, women’s low representation at the top, despite increasing participation at entry levels, remained systemic and frustrating after 10 years of tracking the data.


Previous reports

Religious diversity at work 

The Religious Diversity in the New Zealand Workplace report provides examples of best practice and  actions that can help in the discussion of religious diversity in the workplace. The focus is not so much on legal entitlement but on the idea of the reasonable accommodation of religious issues based on accurate and reliable information. 


Religious Diversity in the New Zealand Workplace (PDF)

Trans people at work

Developed by the Department of Labour in 2011, this guide provides information about legal and employment rights including best practice advice for employers if an employee wishes to transition at work.


Trans People at Work

Parents and paid work

With employers reporting that their key business challenge is attracting and retaining workers, and many parents saying they cannot find work that suits their circumstances and skills, the EEO Trust endeavoured to find out what parents need in order to reach their potential at work while still being the sort of parent they want to be to their children.


Parents and Paid Work Report

People with disabilities 

There can be a lot of fear and misconceptions about hiring someone with a disability. Employers who have seen the opportunities instead of the barriers tell their stories. 


Attitude Live Report

Also see the EEO Trust for advice for employers on employing people with disabilities. 

Mega Sport Events 

A joint statement has been created to allow for making human rights central to the planning, deliver and legacy of mega-sporting events. You can read the joint statement here.