Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 24 April 2013 Contents LOCAL NEWS
Page 6 | 24 April, 2013
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Equal Opportunities in Employment
In 1893 New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the
right to vote – a proud moment in New Zealand’s civil rights history. This year
marks 120 years of women’s’ suffrage and therefore it seems only right to talk
about a subject that is still very much an issue in New Zealand, if not more so in
the provinces, that being equal opportunity in employment.
Equal Opportunity means that people should be treated similarly and in
employment that positions should go to the most qualified to perform the role
and not based on irrelevant factors such as sex, age, ethnicity, disability etc. In
New Zealand there are a number of Acts that either directly or indirectly relate to
safeguarding equal opportunities - the Parental Leave and Employment Protection
Act 1987, Minimum Wage Act 1983 and Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and
Compensation Act 2001 for example.
Equal opportunities in employment became particularly relevant to me after the
birth of my first child. Macalisters gave me the freedom to work part-time and
balance my career with my family. The firm did this because it was aware of my
work ethic and believed that my contribution was meaningful. But I was one of
the lucky ones.
In 2010 when I first spoke about this issue, I asked 30 mothers who had or
were planning to return to work to share their experiences. A common thread
emerged. While organisations claim to be supportive of reintegrating mothers
to the workplace and in some cases have policies that state the same; in reality
some employers are inflexible in their expectations as to conditions of work which
ultimately make it impossible for mums to return. Some examples revolve around
inflexible working hours, a lack of consideration of shift work or job sharing and a
lack of provision of mobile technologies, so that people can work from anywhere.
In a couple of cases, two of my subjects that experienced this worked for
government departments which claim to have policies in place to support diversity.
However, this is not just a woman’s issue.
In June 2008, the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust produced a review
of literature entitled “Diversity and Equality”. It found that potential benefits
of workplace diversity are improved staff recruitment and retention, improved
creativity, innovation and problem solving and improved marketing strategies and
outcomes. However, achieving such outcomes was dependent on proactive and
skilled management practices.
One local example mentioned in the report was Franklin Kindergarten Association,
which supports a work-life balance policy. As such it made savings of $300,000
over a three-year period due to staff returning to work after parental leave.
Another example used was law firm Meredith Connell that also supports work-
life initiatives and quantifies cost savings from low staff turnover at $360,000
So while the benefits of having diversity and promoting equality in your workplace
are clear and we have legislation designed to protect these rights the pertinent
questions are – “Are equal employment opportunities filtering down into
Southland?” “What does your workforce look like?” and “Do you recognise the
advantages of diversity and equality in your recruitment?”.
In March 2012, the Equal Opportunities Trust looked at Demographic Trends within
New Zealand (based on information from Statistics New Zealand) and came up
with four main points:
1. New Zealand’s labour force growth is slowing. As our birth rates are
declining and there is an increase of time spent in education, the number
of younger people entering the workforce will decline over the next
2. Global labour market. Migration will be particularly important for those
with skills in demand.
3. New Zealand’s age profile is changing. Life expectancy is rising along
with retirements being pushed out. Older people are staying in the
4. Family and gender roles continue to evolve. Families with dependent
children where both parents work full time are increasing. More men
are assuming the day to day care of their children while women become
If you are an employer therefore, you will have to focus on attracting and retaining
increasingly scarce talent. Those employees that were once marginalised for
example, mothers, those with a disability, young workers or migrants will need
to be made better use of.
Therefore Equal Employment Opportunity is not just a hollow term, it’s a civil right
and if you are an employer, recognising diversity and equality in your workforce is
going to be a necessity in the future.
Sarah Dowie is a Solicitor at Macalisters, Barristers and Solicitors based at
Invercargill but available in Te Anau every second Monday and Winton by
Move over Wimbeldon
Grandstand, Te Anau’s tennis
enthusiasts can now watch local
tennis aces in action from a
new viewing platform at the back
of the Real Journeys Fiordland
Community Events Centre –
overlooking the courts, with room
for up to 60 spectators.
Fiordland Community Events
Centre Trust chairman Mike
Schuck said the balcony replaces
an old rickety wooden fire exit
staircase. Its replacement with a
balcony was part of the original
project to build the tennis courts.
Although the tennis courts opened
in March 2012, the project ran
out of money and a decision was
made to hold off building the
viewing platform for one year to
allow for more fundraising.
Russell Maher, of Metalworks
Te Anau, designed and built
the viewing platform, donating
$10,000 towards the funding for
it. Credit also needs to go to the
Tennis Club members who put in
281 hours of volunteer labour to
make it happen.
The balcony can be accessed
from the ground via a staircase
or through sliding doors from the
Squash Club rooms above the
squash courts, meaning that the
space can be shared and enjoyed
by both clubs.
The total cost of the courts and
the viewing platform came to
$330,000, of which 36 percent
was granted by the Community
Trust of Southland, $20,000
was funded by the Fiordalnd
Community Events Centre Trust,
$17,000 was paid by the Tennis
Club, and the balance came from
anonymous donations by local
“The Event Centre’s goal is to
provide sporting facilities for
the public to enjoy at the lowest
possible cost. For the $20,000
the trust spent on this project, we
have tennis courts and a viewing
platform worth $330,000 that all
the public can enjoy with no debt
for the community,” Mr Schuck
That’s a grand slam win for Te
Room for a view
ABOVE LEFT: The new balcony is
manoeuvred into place at the rear
of the Real Journeys Fiordland
Community Events Centre.
PHOTO: Irene Maher
By Alina Suchanski
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