Equal Opportunity in the Workplace and Gender Reporting

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 (Cth) (“the Bill”) received assent in December 2012. The Bill implemented several amendments to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) including a name change to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (“the Act”).

The amendments to the Act are targeted towards promoting gender equality in the workplace, to improving the workforce with respect to participation as well as continuing to recognise the importance for equal remuneration. Significant changes with respect to reporting requirements apply to ‘relevant employers’, being an employer of 100 or more employees in Australia or a registered higher education provider that is an employer.

The significant amendments to the Act include:

1. Changing the name of the Act to the Workplace Gender Equality Act, with the objective being to encompass gender equality in the workplace for both men and women.

2. Extending the coverage of the Act so as to cover all employees in the workplace (regardless of their gender).

3. Introducing a new reporting framework, which requires relevant employers to report in relation to gender equality indicators (“GEI”). The GEIs include:

a. The gender composition of the workplace;

b. Gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers;

c. Equal remuneration between men and women;

d. 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;

e. Consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace; and

f. Any other matters specified by the Minister.

4. Providing a name change for the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workforce Agency to Workplace Gender Equality Agency (“the Agency”). The Agency will, in conjunction with relevant employers and employee organisations, work to develop benchmarks in relation to GEIs.

The key changes with respect to reporting are phased such that once fully transitioned, if a relevant employer submits a GEI report that does not meet a minimum standard and does not show improvement in the two reporting periods following, the relevant employer may be deemed non-compliant.

Relevant employers should note that for the 2013 reporting year, reports are due with the Agency in May 2013 and require organisations to provide a workplace profile (akin to the reporting regarded under the old legislation).

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