Equity and the law

The State Sector Act 1989

The State Sector Act 1989 includes ‘good employer provisions’ which require the University to provide:

  • an equal employment opportunities programme;
  • impartial selection of suitably qualified persons for appointment;
  • recognition of:
    • The aims and aspirations of the Māori people;
    • The employment requirements of the Māori people;
    • The need for greater involvement of the Māori people in the Education service;
  • opportunities for the enhancement of the abilities of individual employees;
  • recognition of the aims and aspirations, and the cultural differences, of ethnic or minority groups;
  • recognition of the employment requirements of women; and
  • recognition of the employment requirements of persons with disabilities.

The Education Act 1990

In 1990, the New Zealand government required that all tertiary education institutions should act to improve access to and participation by a wide range of New Zealanders. Under section 181 of the Education Act 1990, it states that it is the duty of the Council of an institution, in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers:

“… (b) To acknowledge the principles of Treaty of Waitangi;
(c) To encourage the greatest possible participation by the communities served by the institution so as to maximise the educational potential of all members of those communities with particular emphasis on those groups in those communities that are under-represented among the students of the institution…”
Under section 220 of the Education Act 1990, it states that the Council of each university is required to include in its annual report to the Minister:

“…(a) A summary of its equal employment opportunities programme for the year to which the report relates;
(b) An account of the extent to which the Council was able, during the year to which the report relates, to meet the equal employment opportunities programme for that year;
(c) An account of the extent to which the Council has eliminated unnecessary barriers to the progress of students;
(d) An account of the extent to which the Council has avoided the creation of unnecessary barriers to the progress of students; and
(e) An account of the extent to which the Council has developed programmes to attract students from groups in the community:

Underrepresented in the institution’s student body; or
Disadvantaged in terms of their ability to attend the institution ...”
Under this statute, the University and its faculties are legally obliged to encourage, and build up, enrolments by the disabled, by Māori, by Pacific Islanders, by those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and by women in areas where they are under-represented, and to monitor and report on their progress.

Human Rights Act 1993

The Human Rights Act makes it unlawful to discriminate based on:

  • Sex – includes pregnancy and childbirth, and discrimination against transgender and intersex people because of their sex or gender identity.
  • Marital status – includes marriages and civil unions that have ended.
  • Religious belief – not limited to traditional or mainstream religions.
  • Ethical belief – not having a religious belief.
  • Colour, race, or ethnic or national origins – includes nationality or citizenship.
  • Disability – including physical, psychiatric, intellectual or psychological disability or illness.
  • Age – people are protected from age discrimination if they are over 16 years old.
  • Political opinion – including not having a political opinion.
  • Employment status – being unemployed, on a benefit or on ACC. It does not include being employed or being on national superannuation.
  • Family status – includes not being responsible for children or other dependants.
  • Sexual orientation – being heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or bisexual.

These grounds apply to a person’s past, present or assumed circumstances. For example, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they have a mental illness, had one in the past, or someone assumes they have a mental illness.

Sexual harassment and racial harassment are particular types of discrimination. Sexual harassment is unwelcome or offensive sexual behaviour that is repeated or significant enough to have a harmful effect on a person. Racial harassment is behaviour that is racist, hurtful or offensive and is either repeated or serious enough to have a harmful effect on a person.

Indirect discrimination is when an action or policy that appears to treat everyone the same actually discriminates against someone. For example, if the only entrance to a shop is by climbing stairs, that indirectly discriminates against someone who uses a wheelchair.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

The Bill of Rights Act protects citizens from breaches of their civil and political rights by the government, the police and other public bodies and officials. The Act is commonly referred to simply as “the Bill of Rights”. It also reflects New Zealand’s commitment to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on which the rights and freedoms it contains are based.

Privacy Act 1993

The Privacy Act controls how 'agencies', including the University of Auckland, collect, use, disclose, store and give access to 'personal information'.