Gender Pay Equity

New legislation aims to rectify gender pay gap

Recent figures from the ABS show that in the quarter ended in February 2012 the average weekly earnings of women working full time were $1186.90 per week, or $250 less than men, who earned an average weekly wage of $1437.40 per week. Over a period of 18 years the pay gap has worsened by 1.5 per cent.

New legislation supporting gender equality in the workplace passed through the House of Representatives in June. The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 still needs to pass through the Senate before it becomes law, but the Minister for Status of Women Ms Julie Collins says this is an important first step which should advance gender equality In Australia.

“This legislation is a significant step towards the removal of barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the workplace. “I look forward to the legislation passing through the Senate as soon as possible,” she said.

Ms Collins says the proposed new law, called the Workplace Gender Equality Act, will increase women’s participation in the workforce and their economic security.

“The name of the law reflects our objective of equality between women and men. It includes men and recognises their needs, especially in their caring responsibilities as parents,” said Ms Collins.

Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, Helen Conway (EOWA) said a key goal of the proposed legislation is to encourage organisations to allow men, as well as women, to work flexibly to meet family and caring responsibilities.

“We need to lift the participation rate of women in the workforce by removing existing disincentives. Our national productivity and competitiveness depends on it. In our workplaces, it is time we stopped paying lip service to gender equality and actually did something about it,” Ms Conway said.

The new law will also focus on gender pay equality

“Closing the gender pay gap is central to achieving equality. An Australian woman on average still earns around 17 per cent less than a man and that gender pay gap remains one of the highest in three decades.

“It has been estimated that closing the gap between men’s and women’s workforce participation could increase Gross Domestic Product by up to 13 per cent,” she says.

Ms Collins says the new law is a clear statement that true equality is essential for a fair society and a strong economy.

“This Act is about supporting businesses to achieve cultural change and helping them reap the rewards of diverse and equal workplaces.”

According to Government information the stated aims of the new legislation are to:

  • To promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace.
  • To support employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce, in recognition of the disadvantaged position of women in relation to employment matters.
  • To promote, amongst employers, the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters (including in relation to family and caring responsibilities).
  • To foster workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning gender equality in employment and in the workplace.
  • To improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of gender equality in employment and in the workplace.

The legislation was written in consultation with women’s groups, industry organisations and employers and industry feedback so far as been positive.

Stephen Roberts, CEO of Citi Australia, Stephen Roberts said the banking group welcomes the legislation and the contribution it will make to improving gender diversity in the workforce:

“In particular, I believe expanding the Act to include men, reporting and sharing of outcomes rather than policies, and a reduction in red tape are valuable steps in building a more diverse workforce.

“A diverse team is invariably smarter, more resilient and more productive – all of which is required for success in business,” he said.

Similarly, the Head of Diversity and Flexibility at the Westpac Group, Jane Counsel said the proposed legislation could promote significant changes:

“We believe the reforms will provide a catalyst to drive concrete change through creating more focus, accountability and transparency to ensure all organisations are committed to delivering more inclusive and flexible workplaces,” she said.

Gender pay snapshot at February 2012

  • WA had the widest pay gap at 25.8 per cent, while ACT had the lowest at 12 per cent.
  • The pay gap in the private sector was 20.8 per cent which is a lot higher than the public sector which was 12.9 per cent.
  • The health care and social assistance sector had the highest gender pay gap at 32.6 per cent followed by the financial and insurance sector at 31.3 per cent.
  • Industries with low gender pay gaps were retail at 7.9 per cent, public administration and safety at 8 per cent and accommodation and food services at 8.1 per cent.


EOWA Fact Sheet

1. ABS, Category 6302.0, Average Weekly Earnings – Trend, February 2012 (released 17.05.12)

This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in August 2012