Australia government introduces legislation to close gender pay gap News
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Australia government introduces legislation to close gender pay gap

The Australian government introduced the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 into Parliament Wednesday, attempting to close the country’ gender pay gap. The bill would increase employer transparency and raise the bar from the “minimum standard” gender equality benchmark provided by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

The new amendment promotes transparency by mandating the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to publish employer-level gender pay gap reports. WGEA, which advises, assists, and reviews employer performance and compliance with gender equality regimes in the workplace, is required to publish “aggregate information” for each applicable employer to demonstrate each their progress in achieving gender equality in employee compensation. Upon receiving the report, employers must provide a copy to each member of its governing body.

The new regulations also aim to repeal the low bar set in the original act, repealing the phrase “minimum standard” and instead requiring the Minister for Women to set higher gender equality standards in relation to specified gender equality indicators.

Broader and more specific gender equality indicators are also introduced to include “discrimination against employees in the workplace”, sexual harassment, and harassment on the grounds of sex.

Minister for Women Senator Katy Gallagher commented that global experience demonstrates a higher level of transparency would encourage organisations to be more proactive in closing the gender pay gap. Gallagher stressed that while women might be working full-time as men do, they are often expected to earn 14.1 per cent less than men per week, creating a $51.8 billion loss a year. She is positive that the Bill would reduce formalities for employers and simplifies the process of the report.

WGEA welcomed the bill and stated that the newly introduced instruments embrace almost all of the recommendations in the WGEA Review Report 2021. The report provides recommendations on making reporting easier for business, suggestions on the publication of gender pay gaps, amendments on gender equality standards set out in the Act. It also recommends a reduction in regulatory burden on employers, implementing regulations in accordance with Respect@Work to prevent and address workplace sex-based harassment and discrimination, refining gender equality indicators, and strengthening compliance with and enforcement of the regulations.

WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge said the review has provided a roadmap to accelerate employers’ commitment to gender equality and pave the way for improvements in experiences at work for many Australians.

The bill is now under second reading and is expected to take effect in 2024.