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

Therapists (and those doing same or substantially similar work) employed in the Education Service (by school boards) or by the Ministry of Education are currently the subject of a pay equity claim which seeks to ensure that they are receiving equitable remuneration for their work.

What’s happening now

On the week of 11 September 2023, the Ministry and NZEI Te Riu Roa entered settlement negotiations for the pay equity claim for Ministry- and school board-employed therapists.  

What’s 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 that sets 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 interview data gathered was analysed to develop a standard description of work referred to as the ‘general areas of responsibility’ (GAR). This document attempts to capture the range of work that therapists do.    

Following the interviews, the information 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.

About 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, and support children and young people to develop the skills to manage themselves in their daily lives. 

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 and Music Therapists. Data shows that therapist roles employed in Schools and by the Ministry are currently, and have historically been, female dominated.


A notification letter and factsheet 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 factsheet 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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