Gender Equality in the workplace is no April fools joke

Posted by Malcolm Campbell on 20 March 2014

Commencing on 1 April 2014 employers and organisations with more than 100 employees will need to comply with their obligations under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (the Act) by submitting an annual workplace profile and report information regard six (6) Gender Equality Indicators (GEI). It is hoped that the workplace profiles with provide government with valuable information regarding employment status, remuneration of all staff and a breakdown of percentages of gender and roles within each organisation.

Background

The Federal Government has acknowledged that women have not been progressing to senior management positions in the workforce which is at odds with the influx of females into the workplace over the past 30 years (women make up some 46% of the Australian workforce). It is an unfortunate reality that women continue to earn (on average) less than males, are less likely to advance their careers, and are more likely to spend their final years of life in poverty. The Government has also identified that males find it more difficult to access family friendly policies and flexible working arrangements. It is the aim of gender equality to achieve equal outcomes for both genders.

Obligations for Employers

Administered by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the purpose of the Act is to encourage gender equality improvements by giving employers a means of measuring their progress. Each reporting year will commence on 1 April and conclude end 31 March. Employers are then required to submit their Gender Equality reports to the WGEA website no later than 31 May for each year. For the 2013-14 reporting year, employers must submit reports online, signed by their CEO, and reach the compliance requirements, while from the 2014-15 reporting period onwards, employers are required to meet "minimum standards".

For the 2013-14 reporting year, employers will need to report on the following key areas:

Gender composition of their workforce
This requires employers to report on whether they have written policies or HR approved strategies in place supporting gender equality in areas such as recruiting, staff retention, promotions, high potentials identification and manager KPI's. If no strategies are in place then the employer will need to provide an answer as to why. From 2014/15, employers will need to provide additional information including job applications received, interviews conducted and appointments made for each gender in addition to number of resignations and promotions awarded to both genders. 

Gender composition of governing bodies
Employers will need to report a breakdown of gender in keys roles of the governing body or the Board. This will include providing a profile on directors, trustees and other governing authorities of the employer. Boards will need to provide information on any key targets that have been set out regarding improving gender equality. If the Board has no such initiatives they will be required to provide a response as to why they have know key targets for gender equality. 

Equal remuneration between men and woman
Employers will need to provide information on their formal policies and strategy to create equal remuneration between genders. Furthermore, employers will need to provide clarification on whether they have performed any analysis or, if not, provide answers as to why. 

Availability of flexible working arrangements and carers responsibilities
Employers need to provide details of whether they fund paid parental leave for primary or secondary carers as well as a list of number of employees that have accessed paid parental leave categorised by their gender and whether they are managers or not. In 2014/15, employers will also need to provide details of numbers of staff that have returned from parental leave as well as what percentage of the workforce that has access to employer funded parental leave. Employers that do not provide any information will need to explain their reasons why. 

Consultation with employees on gender equality issues
Employers will need to provide figures how much consultation has occurred in the workplace in relation to the topic of gender equality as well as categories of employees consulted. 

Sex based harassment and discrimination audit
Employers will need to provide information regarding sex based harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This includes a run down of training for staff and managers, whether there are formal policies and strategies in place for prevention and grievance procedures. 

Benefits for Employers

While there may be scepticism from Employers in the new requirements to provide GEI, there has been considerable research into the benefits of gender equality in the workplace including that you will attract the best available talent to your company, reduce staff turnover, improve competitiveness in the marketplace and produces more efficient companies. 
If you have any further questions regard your obligations to submit your gender equality report please contact us.

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