The Australian Government has passed legislation to retain and
improve the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act
1999 (Cth) and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the
Workplace Agency. The new Act is called the Workplace Gender
Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (the Act) and the
Agency has been replaced by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
(the Agency), with a Director of Workplace Gender
The new legislation aims to strengthen the Act and the
Agency's focus on gender equality and extends its coverage to
include men, while also increasing reporting obligations for
employers (including higher education institutions that are
employers and non-public sector organisations with 100 or more
The new system removes the requirement on employers to provide
descriptions of their policies and programs regarding gender
equality. Instead, there will be a genuine focus on improving
outcomes over time. The new reporting framework will be phased in
over a 2 year period.
If a relevant employer's number of employees falls below
100, it must continue to report until employee numbers fall below
80. The reporting period under the Act refers to the 12 months from
1 April to 31 March, with reports being due between 1 April and 31
For the reporting period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, relevant
employers will be required to prepare a public report which sets
out the employer's workplace profile and to comply with limited
parts of the new framework.
For the reporting period commencing on 1 April 2013 and onwards,
a relevant employer must prepare and lodge a public report
containing information relating to the employer and to the gender
equality indicators. The report must be signed off by the
The annual report must be made accessible to employees,
shareholders and unions include details of the following gender
gender composition of the workforce;
gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers
(board of directors, management committee etc);
equal remuneration between women and men;
availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and
practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees
and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or
caring responsibilities; and
consultation with employees on issues concerning gender
equality in the workplace.
Employers will be required to notify employees, shareholders and
unions when a report has been lodged, and how they can access it.
For the first time under this Act, employers will be required to
report on the composition of their boards.
The Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins MP said in
relation to the introduction of the new Act, "With the
gender pay gap in Australia sitting at just under 18 per cent, the
focus on equal pay is particularly important."
Failure to comply with the reporting requirements may result in
the naming of companies in reports to the relevant minister, or
publication in national newspapers. Failure to report may affect a
company's eligibility to compete for contracts under the
Commonwealth procurement framework.
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.
Kemp Strang has received acknowledgements for the quality of
our work in the most recent editions of Chambers & Partners,
Best Lawyers and IFLR1000.
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