The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 (Cth) (Bill) was introduced into Federal Parliament last month and proposes to make amendments to the current gender reporting requirements to increase transparency and action towards closing the gender pay gap.
The changes, if passed, are expected to come into effect on 1 April 2023.
Current Reporting Requirements
Currently, under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Act), non-public sector ‘relevant employers’ with 100 or more employees are required to submit an annual report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) containing information relating six gender equality indicators, including information such as:
- workforce composition, salaries, and remuneration;
- workforce management statistics;
- employee movements over the course of the reporting period; and
- the organisation’s policies, strategies, and actions on gender equality.
Under the Act, relevant employers must inform employees, members and shareholders of their report and provide access to comment on it.
WGEA then collates the information provided by relevant employers and submits this to the relevant Minister to be tabled in Parliament. Any personal information or information relating to remuneration that is included in a public report lodged by a relevant employer cannot be published or used in the WGEA’s report to the Minister.
A 2021 review of the Act was released in March 2022 (Review), which found that the gender pay gap in Australia was not closing rapidly enough. The Review made 10 recommendations to accelerate the rate of change on workplace gender inequality and reduce the reporting burden on businesses.
As a result, the Bill proposes to amend the Act to improve gender equality in employment and in the workplace. This reflects the 2022 election commitments by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Review, including to boost pay gap transparency and encourage action to close gender pay gaps within organisations.
Importantly, the Bill does not alter or extend the definition of ‘relevant employers’ required to report to WGEA.
Rather, the Bill introduces new provisions requiring WGEA to publicly publish gender pay gap information of relevant employers for each reporting period, to promote accountability and encourage accelerated action and change within organisations towards the closing the gender pay gap. Note that individual employee remuneration will not be published.
Additionally, the Bill amends the Act to include ‘sexual harassment’, ‘harassment on the ground of sex’, or ‘discrimination’ as gender equality indicators in the Act to align with other changes the recent Respect@Work legislation.
Relevant employers will also be required to disclose information about gender-based discrimination in the workplace. This includes data about the remuneration of employees with respect of their gender. An aggregate of this data will be collected, specifically around the gender differences in payment, and made publicly available.
We understand that relevant employers as part of a questionnaire will also need to disclose whether their policies have targets to address gender equality in the workplace. This may include whether the employer provides leave requirements for women for reasons outside of personal and sick leave, such as fertility treatment, menstruation, and endometriosis. Sexual harassment and discrimination policies will also likely be required to be reported.
Finally, CEOs of relevant employers will be required to provide an Executive Summary Report and Industry Benchmark Report to their governing bodies. This is to support strengthened accountability of relevant employers to take action to improve gender equality in their workplaces.
As at the date of writing, the Bill has not yet passed a Senate vote, and therefore has not yet formally become law.
Relevant employers should plan for these changes given they are expected to come into effect from April. Further relevant employers should continue to ensure they are meeting their reporting obligations under the Act, and consider what action it is taking or proposes to take to close the gender pay gap, noting it is likely that such information will become publicly available in the near future.