EOWA is continuing with business as usual under the
existing legislation as well as preparing itself to be able to
administer the new regime under the proposed
The case for gender equality in the workplace is clear. It's
not just a matter of fairness. It's also good for business and
there's a strong body of research to support this. Achieving
gender diversity requires strong leadership and accountability
systems which are rigorously enforced. Leading employers will step
up and meet this challenge.
The 2010 Global Gender Gap Report issued by the World Economic
Forum puts Australia at the top of the list for female educational
attainment but ranks us at 44 for female labour force participation
and at 59 for wage equality for women. This makes no sense and
frankly is totally unacceptable. With low unemployment and
significant skills shortages, it is obvious we should utilise
all the talent, male and female, that exists in
Australia. Companies with good diversity records will have a
competitive advantage as they compete for talent, strive to retain
that talent and look to improve productivity.
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act and Agency
(and their predecessors) have played a key role in facilitating
efforts to achieve gender equality in Australian workplaces for the
past 25 years, and this will continue.
In March this year, the Minister for the Status of Women, the
Honourable Kate Ellis, announced a set of reforms to improve the
Act and the Agency. The key reforms can be summarised as
A new name and focus – The Act is to be renamed the
Workplace Gender Equality Act and the Agency will be known as the
Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The objects of the Act will also
be recast to acknowledge pay equity and caring responsibilities of
both men and women as central to gender equality.
Streamlined reporting – Reporting by organisations
captured by the Act (that is, private sector employers with 100 or
more employees) will be based on gender equality indicators
focusing on outcomes for men and women in the workplace. Reports
will have to be signed off by the CEO and an employee
representative, lodged online and made accessible to employees and
Compliance – Compliance will be assessed referable to
industry benchmarks and progress over time. The Agency will be
given power to conduct organisational reviews to ensure reports
being submitted are accurate and employers are otherwise complying
with the Act. In addition, measures to ensure employers who are
non-compliant with the Act are not able to participate in
Government procurement or receive Government grants will be
Assistance – The Agency will develop industry
benchmarks and industry-specific strategies for achieving gender
equality. It will continue to provide advice and support to
reporting organisations and, in addition, will provide advice and
support to organisations with less than 100 employees who are not
required to report.
The legislation to give effect to these reforms is scheduled to
be tabled during the current sittings of Parliament, with the first
reports under the new system falling due in 2013.
The Agency is currently continuing with business as usual under
the existing legislation as well as preparing itself to be able to
administer the new regime under the proposed legislation. The
Agency is committed to continuing to work closely with business and
ensuring the transition to the new legislative requirements is as
smooth as possible.
Helen Conway, the Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in
the Workplace Agency, is a guest writer on Insights. She has had
extensive business experience. Following ten years in private
practice as a lawyer, including seven years as a partner, Helen
joined the corporate sector where she held various executive
positions in companies covering the insurance, transport,
downstream oil, retailing and construction industries. In addition
she has held various directorships in the health, transport and
Helen has established a track record in the equal opportunity
sphere focusing in particular on initiatives in support of women.
She spent ten years on the NSW Equal Opportunity Tribunal including
three years as its Senior Judicial Member.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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