The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment
Bill 2012 (Bill), recently introduced into
Parliament, aims to improve gender equality in the workplace and
workforce participation, particularly in relation to women and
workers with family and caring responsibilities. The Bill amends
the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999
(Act) (to be renamed the Workplace Gender
Equality Act 2012).
What does this mean for employers?
The Bill will have broader application to employers than the
current Act (which only places reporting requirements on ASX listed
companies) and will cover:
higher education institutions; and
all non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees
Relevant employers will be required to report on 'gender
equality indicators', including:
gender composition of the workforce and governing bodies (e.g.
remuneration levels for men and women;
the availability and utility of employment terms, conditions
and practices relating to flexible work arrangements; and
consultation with employees on workplace gender equality
Employers, shareholders and unions, as well as employees, will
be involved in achieving improved gender equality in the
The new reporting requirements will be phased with limited
reporting required for the period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013 and
full reporting from 31 March 2013.
Consequences of non-compliance include being 'named and
shamed' in the media, and being ineligible to compete for
Commonwealth contracts, or receive Commonwealth grants or other
Background to changes in brief
The proposed changes are intended to address the failure of
existing measures to close the gender gap in Australian workplaces.
This is particularly evident in the gender pay gap in Australia,
which shows that women working full time earn just under 18% less
than men working full time.
The focus has moved from reporting on 'workplace plans'
(which cannot easily be measured) to reporting on tangible gender
equality indicators, including actual figures on gender composition
and specific information on employment conditions and work
practices in place to achieve gender equality.
In addition to the new reporting requirements, the Government
will also increase compliance with the new legislation by spot
checking workplaces to make sure that their reporting is accurate.
Public reports will now need to be signed off by the company's
CEO, ensuring that management at the highest level is aware of the
nature and extent of any gender equality issues in their
The changes aim to improve transparency of the compliance
framework, including by requiring that the reports be made
available to employees, unions and other employee organisations,
and shareholders. Employers will no longer be able to hide gender
inequality from affected or interested parties.
The new regime will be monitored by the Director of the Equal
Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (to be renamed the
Workplace Gender Equality Agency) (Agency). The Director's
ability to exempt certain organisations from the requirement to
report on gender equality in their workplace will be removed.
The Senate referred the Bill to the Education, Employment &
Workplace Relations Committee which will report on 8 May 2012.
Tips for employers:
ASX listed companies are already required to have and report on
diversity policies to improve gender diversity in the workforce,
particularly at senior levels.
Non-listed entities caught by the new rules should now also
consider implementing a diversity policy and making this issue a
standing Board agenda item.
Diversity measures to be considered could include
implementation of equal opportunity policies, providing access to
education and training programs, enhanced parental leave schemes,
subsidised childcare, mentoring programmes and target recruitment
percentages at graduate and senior management levels.
Assuming the Bill is passed, relevant employers should prepare
the information required to be disclosed under the new reporting
requirements for the 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013 reporting
period. Reports for this reporting period must be provided to the
Agency by 31 May 2013, and thereafter on 31 May of each year.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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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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