Workplace gender equality
The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (WGE Act) places an emphasis on promoting and improving gender equality for both men and women in the workplace.
All non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees (based on headcount) are required to report annually under the WGE Act. Where a relevant employer’s employees fall below 100, they must continue to report until they fall below 80 employees for six months or more. The reporting period is the 12-month period between April 1 and March 31 every year, and reports are due between April 1 and May 31 annually.
Employers must also comply with the following notification and access requirements, including:
- informing employees and members or shareholders as soon as practicable of the lodging of the report with the Agency;
- providing information on how the report can be accessed;
- providing access to the report;
- informing employee organisations with members within the workplace that the report has been lodged; and
- informing employees and relevant employee organisations of the opportunity to comment on the report to the employer or the Agency.
Gender equality indicators (GEIs)
Under the WGE Act, employers are required to report against a set of standardised GEIs, comply with notification and access requirements, and have annual reports signed by the employer’s CEO.
The GEIs are defined below:
- GEI 1: gender composition of the workforce
- GEI 2: gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers
- GEI 3: equal remuneration between women and men
- GEI 4: 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
- GEI 5: consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace
- GEI 6: any other matters specified in a legislative instrument, which may relate to employment matters.
The employment matters relate to areas in the workplace where women have been traditionally disadvantaged, and are defined as:
- the recruitment procedure and selection criteria, for appointment or engagement of persons as employees
- the promotion, transfer and termination of employment of employees
- training and development for employees
- work organisation including flexible working arrangements
- conditions of service of employees including equal remuneration between women and men
- arrangements for dealing with sex-based harassment of employees in the workplace
- arrangements for dealing with pregnant, or potentially pregnant employees and employees who are breastfeeding their children
- arrangements relating to employees with family or caring responsibilities.
The GEIs are intended to provide employers with a regulated method of measuring their progress and performance from year to year and will be measured against industry-specific benchmarks, with the aim of addressing the most serious issues facing workplace gender equality.
The Minister for Women (the Minister) will specify matters in relation to each GEI ahead of the reporting period to which they apply, with the intention that this will provide further guidance to relevant employers about the information required in their reporting and to ensure the data included is meaningful.
Relevant employers with 500 or more employees, must meet the minimum standards, which includes a formal written policy or strategy supporting gender equality around certain GEIs. The policy or strategy must be approved by human resources and/or management, communicated broadly, and accessible to all employees.
The consequences of non-compliance may include:
- Agency naming a non-compliant employer in a report to the Minister; and
- non-compliant employers potentially being made ineligible to tender for contracts, grants or financial assistance under the Commonwealth and some state procurement frameworks.
Minimum standards will be set by the Minister, and if a relevant employer fails to meet these the Agency must offer targeted assistance to improve performance.