Australian businesses with more than 100 employees will have
greater reporting and compliance responsibilities under changes
announced on Wednesday, 9 March 2011 to the Commonwealth's
equal opportunity laws.
Changes to reporting for businesses
The reporting laws will only apply to organisations with more
than 100 employees, but there will be no exceptions – the
EOWA Director will no longer be able to waive the reporting
Employers will be required to report:
on the gender composition of their boards; and
against a set of gender equality indicators, focusing on
outcomes for women and men in the workplace.
These reports must be signed off on by CEOs and employee
representatives, and made available to employees and
A secure web portal will be developed, allowing online
Although reporting will now be mandatory, the requirement for
organisations to develop workplace programs will be removed.
What's the price of non-compliance?
Industry-level benchmarks, and demonstrating progress over time,
will be important elements of compliance.
There will be three main sticks for ensuring compliance by
naming and shaming: non-compliant
organisations will be named in Parliament and more widely;
no Government business: the Government will
only deal with organisations which comply with the Act; and
ineligible for Government assistance:
non-compliant organisations cannot receive Government-funded grants
or industry assistance.
Changes in names and roles
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 will
be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Act, and will expand in
scope to cover women and men, particularly in relation to caring
responsibilities. Its objectives will also expand, to acknowledge
pay equity and the caring responsibilities of both women and men as
central to gender equality.
Likewise, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace
Agency will become the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, and its
powers and responsibilities will be expanded, including developing
industry-level benchmarks and industry-specific strategies for
New investigation powers for the Workplace Gender Equality
The newly renamed Workplace Gender Equality Agency will be able
to conduct organisational reviews to make sure reports are
accurate, and make regular spot checks on the accuracy of the
information organisations provide to it.
The Government has indicated that the bill to implement these
reforms will be introduced into Parliament this year, and a start
date for reporting sometime in 2013, although it's unclear when
the other changes would commence.
The new legislation will contain transitional arrangements to
ensure that reporting organisations have time to adapt to the new
It is also expected that there will be some consultation over
some of these reforms.
We will be continuing to monitor these developments.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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