Therapists' pay equity claim

Learn about the therapists' pay equity claim.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Speech language therapists (school/Ministry-employed)
  • Occupational Therapists (school/Ministry-employed)
  • Physiotherapists (school/Ministry-employed)
  • Music therapists (school-employed)
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • School boards
  • Ministry people leaders

What is happening now

Together with NZEI Te Riu Roa, we have reached a proposed agreement to settle the claim.

Details of the proposed settlement were communicated by NZEI Te Riu Roa to all therapists covered by the claim on Friday 16 February 2024.

NZEI Te Riu Roa will be running a series of worksite meetings and webinars from 19 February to run through the details of the proposed settlement and answer any questions before employees vote on whether to approve the settlement in early March.

What has happened to date

Arguability for this claim was agreed with NZEI Te Riu Roa in January 2021.

A terms of reference was signed in late 2021. This set out how the Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa will work together to investigate the claim. The signing of the terms of reference marked the end of the raising phase of the process, which means we’re now in the assessment phase. 

The first part of the assessment phase involved the Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa jointly conducting interviews with a random selection of therapists to gain a more thorough understanding of the skills, responsibilities, degrees of effort and conditions of their work. 

The interviews were completed with an initial research sample of 48 therapists employed by schools and the Ministry to gain a more thorough understanding of their work.   

The information gathered in interviews was analysed and assessed and a standard description referred to as the 'general areas of responsibility' (GAR) was developed.

From September to October 2022, this was shared with therapists (the claimants) and their supervisors to determine whether their work had been fully captured during the interview process. 

The parties then commenced work to identify, contact and interview suitable comparator occupations for the claim. 

Following this, the Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa completed the factor-scoring process of the claim. This process involved using information gathered during the investigation stage of the claim to break the work into its component parts called 'factors'. Each factor was assigned a score, which provided insight into the comparability of therapist work with selected male-dominated comparators. Comparisons were then made between the male-dominated comparator workforce and the claimant workforce to see if a pay equity issue exists.

How the claim came about

On 6 November 2020 NZEI Te Riu Roa raised a pay equity claim for therapists and those people doing same or substantially similar work in state and state-integrated schools and those employed by the Ministry.

The work of therapists in education

Therapists subject to the pay equity claim are employed in schools or by the Ministry. The claim covers a range of therapist roles, including:

  • speech language therapists
  • occupational therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • music therapists.

Therapists within the education sector assess and treat students who have limited ability to carry out everyday activities because of illness, injury, disorders or circumstances related to physiology. This may include difficulties with speech, language, thought processes or moving their bodies.

Therapists work to understand the impact of the child’s physiological difficulties in the context of their home, school and community. They observe, assess and work closely with children and young people with special education needs. They work closely with parents and caregivers, teachers and schools, and other specialists to help children and young people participate at school and achieve educationally.

Therapists identify, set up and provide advice about the support, equipment and technology a child or young person may need. They support children and young people to develop the skills to manage themselves in their daily lives. 

Data shows that therapist roles employed in schools and by the Ministry are currently and have historically been female dominated.

Notification letter and fact sheet

A notification letter and fact sheet about the claim has been sent to all covered employees of state and state-integrated school boards and of the Ministry.

Until the claim is settled (if this is the outcome of the investigation), this letter and fact sheet will also need to be given to any new employees who start a role covered by the claim within the first 20 days of employment.

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