Gender equality within the workplace has recently garnered attention with the Federal Government announcing it will launch an enquiry into the discrimination in the work force directed against women who are pregnant or returning to work after taking parental leave.
The announcement comes three months after new reporting regime set out within the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (‘the Act’) became operational. The Act requires all non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees (including employees of subsidiaries) to report annually on gender equality indicators which include:
- Gender composition of the workforce;
- Gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers;
- Equal remuneration between women and men;
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- Availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or caring responsibilities;
- Consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality; and
- Other matters considered by the Minister including recruitment and selection procedure, sex based harassment and discrimination.
Employers are required to lodge an Annual Report containing the above information with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency by 31 May each year. The exact information required will vary from year to year in accordance with specific requirements set by the Minister for the status of Women.
The report will be a public document and employers are required to inform shareholders and workers about the document and their opportunity to comment on the document.
The consequences of non-compliance include the Workplace Gender Equality Agency naming the employer and providing details of its non-compliance to the Minister and that employer being ineligible to compete for contracts under the Commonwealth procurement framework or apply for Commonwealth grants or receive financial assistance.
There are no specific financial penalties although it is recognised that damages and compensation is available on individual bases through actions under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) as demonstrated through increasingly prevalent adverse action claims taken against employers on the basis of discrimination.
Please contact Jim Tealby or Belinda Hughes from our Workplace Relations team if you would like more information on the Workplace Gender Equality Act or if we can assist you with a workplace issue.