Part 6: Equal Employment Opportunities

The State Services Commission: Capability to Recognise and Address Issues for Māori.


The concept of Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) is concerned with the removal of unfair discriminatory practices and building inclusive systems and structures that promote equal opportunities in the workplace. Recruiting staff on the basis of merit and treating employees equitably are key features of EEO.

Promoting EEO in the workplace contributes to the creation of a Public Service that is capable of achieving Government outcomes in all areas of policy development and service delivery. Valuing diversity in the workplace through EEO benefits both chief executives and their employees by making the Public Service more effective, more efficient, and more responsive.

In this Part we focus on the role and responsibilities of the Commission in relation to EEO for Māori – having regard to the need for the Commission to treat all target groups in an equitable manner.

What We Did

Our examination had two key components:

  • first, we discussed the Commission’s function with key staff, who confirmed the Commission’s role in relation to the EEO legislative requirements; and
  • secondly, we examined relevant documentation – both working papers and published documents – to confirm how the Commission gives effect to its role.

EEO – The Commissioner’s Role

The Legislative Function – the State Sector Act 1988

The State Sector Act 1988 divides responsibility for EEO between the Commissioner and departmental chief executives:

  • Under section 6(g), the Commissioner has the function “To promote, develop, and monitor equal employment opportunities, policies and programmes for the Public Service”.
  • Under section 56, departmental chief executives must “operate a personnel policy that complies with the principle of being a good employer”. This includes having an EEO programme. The good employer principle is further defined in section 56(2)(d), which states that departmental chief executives must operate a personnel policy that recognises the needs and aspirations of Māori, the employment requirements of Māori, and the need for greater involvement of Māori in the Public Service.
  • Under section 58, departmental chief executives must develop and publish an EEO programme for their department and fulfil various reporting requirements relating to that programme.

Three further groups are identified in the State Sector Act. These are:

  • ethnic or minority groups;
  • women; and
  • persons with disabilities.

EEO Policy to 2010: Future Directions of EEO in the New Zealand Public Service

The policy document EEO Policy to 2010: Future Directions of EEO in the New Zealand Public Service (the EEO Policy) prepared by the Commission and approved by Cabinet in 1997, further defines the respective roles of the Commission and departmental chief executives.

The EEO Policy clarified the functions of the Commission and Public Service chief executives. As part of the policy, the Commission reaffirmed its legislative function, which requires it to promote, develop, and monitor EEO within the Public Service.

The EEO Policy identified four areas of EEO focus:

  • leadership;
  • organisational culture and strategic human resource management;
  • employment of EEO groups; and
  • monitoring and evaluation.

The policy sets various EEO objectives for 2000 and 2010 that departments are to aim for.

The EEO Policy has a particular emphasis on the achievement of EEO for Māori. This reflects the need for the Public Service to give effect to section 56 of the State Sector Act, and to ensure that the Public Service has Māori staff with the managerial, policy and service delivery capability to achieve Government outcomes appropriately.

The EEO Policy sets the following targets:

  • By 2000, Māori will increasingly comprise a critical mass in each department in order to build Public Service capability; and
  • By 2010, each department will have a critical mass of Māori staff at requisite levels, contributing to managerial, policy and service delivery capability.

How Is the Commission’s Role Reflected in its Accountability Documents?

The Commission’s Statement of Intent (SOI) for 2003 and its Output Plan for 2003-04 should both have set out how the Commission intends discharging its responsibilities for EEO, taking account of its role as described above.

The Commission sees its EEO role as contributing to its outcomes as outlined in its SOI. However, the SOI makes no direct reference to EEO – despite this being a statutory responsibility of the Commissioner.

The Commission’s responsibilities for EEO are reflected in its Output Plan for 2003-04. The Commission’s EEO approach is based on the desire to position the Public Service to attract and retain diverse and capable staff. The EEO outputs include:

  • promoting greater co-ordination between the Public Service and selected State sector organisations on strategic HR management, EEO, and employment relations; and
  • fulfilling statutory responsibilities for EEO in the Public Service.

To achieve these outputs, the Commission has identified that it must:

  • co-ordinate State sector agencies on human resources, EEO and employment relations matters, in order to promote more effective working together;
  • Human Resource Capability (HRC) data and other survey information; and
  • identify gaps and barriers, and implement solutions to recruitment and retention – in particular, the recruitment and retention of Māori staff.

Implementation of the Commissioner’s EEO Function

Responsibility for giving effect to the Commission’s EEO responsibilities in respect of the Public Service rests with the Strategic Development Branch.

The Promotion, Development and Monitoring of EEO by the Commission

The promotion, development and monitoring of EEO policies and programmes for Māori in the Public Service take place concurrently and in conjunction with one another. The Commission does this in a variety of ways, including:

  • hosting presentations and seminars – which have included half-day sessions on “Making EEO Part of the Recruitment & Selection Process” and “Work and Family Balance – The Role of Employers”;
  • regular updates at the monthly meetings of HR managers from across the Public Service;
  • the publication of guidance documents such as Moving Forward: EEO for People With Disabilities In The Public Service – A Practical Guide;
  • requiring departments to complete the EEO self-assessment on an annual basis;
  • the annual collection of anonymous HRC data – which assists the Commission in monitoring the effect of EEO policies and being able to provide advice on departmental performance and personnel management; and
  • the production of progress reports – which include data from the self-assessments completed by departments and the HRC survey.

Whole-of-Government Policy Advice and Monitoring

The EEO Policy requires the Commission to provide whole-of-government policy advice and monitoring, in order to assure the Government that its interests are being met.

Departments complete for the Commission a self-assessment of how well they are progressing on EEO in respect of leadership, organisational culture, strategic human resource management, and monitoring and evaluation. This self-assessment comprises measurable performance indicators in two parts – organisational context and the employment of EEO target groups.

In 2000, departments were required to set milestones for 2005 and targets for 2010 for employment of EEO target groups. Each year, departments are required to fill in a self-assessment of how well they are doing based on indicators of good practice. They are also required to provide a response as to whether they are meeting, or likely to meet, the numerical targets set in 2000.

The HRC Survey findings and the EEO self-assessment information from departments are drawn on to prepare the EEO Progress Report. The survey findings are reported annually to Cabinet in a summary form. The progress report is disseminated to departments and placed on the Commission’s web site for public access. This publication of the monitoring results helps to promote EEO, which in turn should help lead to the development of EEO policies and programmes for Māori in the Public Service.

The Commission also provides individual departments with:

  • historical reports, showing data collected since 1995;
  • standard reports, providing breakdowns and comparisons with the rest of the Public Service and the wider employed labour force; and
  • outlier reports, showing areas where the department differs considerably from a benchmark such as the Public Service average.

The Commission contributes to a variety of other work being done within the State sector on EEO.

EEO Outputs with a Focus on Māori

The Commission has completed a range of projects in relation to EEO outputs that have a focus on Māori, including Chapter Ten of the Career Progression and Development Survey and the most recent progress report, which had a special focus on Māori.

Career Progression Survey: Māori in the Public Service

In the Career Progression and Development Survey 2000: Results for the New Zealand Public Service, a chapter was devoted to Māori in the Public Service. One of the reasons for this survey was to look at progress for Māori within the Public Service.

The Career Progression and Development Survey refers to a report Recruitment and Retention Project: A Report to the Chief Executive Forum, which notes that departments are likely to be most effective in attracting and retaining Māori staff when they are clear about how the Treaty influences their department, are explicit about wanting to attract and retain Māori staff, and have an understanding of the value that Māori bring to their department.

EEO Progress in the Public Service 2003 Report – With Special Focus on Māori

EEO Progress in the Public Service 2003 Report focuses primarily on progress towards Equal Employment Opportunities for Māori in the Public Service since the State Sector Act 1988 came into force. In particular, the report considers EEO progress for Māori in two main areas:

  • increasing involvement of Māori at all levels of the Public Service since 1988; and
  • addressing the aims, aspirations and employment requirements of Māori in their employment in the Public Service.

The report drew extensively on quantitative data, and current initiatives for recruiting and retaining Māori were included as a basis for sharing information about them across the Public Service.

Use of EEO Information within the Commission

The Strategic Development Branch maintains an HRC Information Requests Log that lists all the major requests. A variety of information is requested through this method by Commission staff. This has included information on EEO, data comparisons, and department-specific information requested by DC Team members.

Informal discussions and information sharing also occur within the Commission, and the relevant DC Team member may also be consulted if the discussion relates to a particular department.

Our Views

The EEO Policy clearly sets out the role of the Commission and the role of departments in relation to EEO. It requires departments to set objectives for the period up to 2010, including objectives in relation to Māori participation in the Public Service.

The Commissioner’s EEO function in relation to the Public Service is among a number of statutory obligations under the State Sector Act. This role also forms an important aspect of the Commission’s broader work in promoting good management practice. It would therefore be appropriate for the role to be reflected in the Commission’s Statement of Intent. However, no such reference is made.

Overall, the Commission is fulfilling its legislative responsibilities as required by the State Sector Act and as set out in the EEO Policy.

The results of the Career Progression and Development Survey provided valuable data about Māori in the Public Service, including useful information for the Commission about obstacles to increased Māori participation.

The publication of a progress report with a special focus on Māori was a useful initiative. The Commission is planning to examine the recruitment and retention of Māori public servants, which will complement the work on the Senior Leadership and Management Development Strategy (see Part Five on pages 71-84).

The HRC team records all internal requests received from other branches within the Commission. This demonstrated that EEO data was being sought and used in relation to other Commission business.


We recommend that the Commissioner address in the Commission’s Statement of Intent how it will give effect to its EEO function.

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