Gender Equality Bill Passes Through Parliament
27 November 2012 at 9:19 am
New legislation supporting gender equality in the workplace has passed through the both houses of Federal Parliament.
The passage of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Bill 2012 was welcomed by Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins, as “another key reform to advance gender equality”.
“This legislation will go a long way to promoting the cultural change necessary to create true gender equality in our workplaces,” Collins said.
“It will support businesses to achieve this cultural change and they will reap the rewards of having diverse and equal workplaces.
“Improving women’s workforce participation is fundamental to closing the gender pay gap and essential to maintaining Australia’s place as one of the strongest performing economies in the world.”
The government says that the new Act will be called the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, and the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency will be called the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
The Act will assist in closing the gender pay gap, with Australian women still earning 17.5 per cent less than men.
It will also cover both women and men and will give all parents access and options in balancing paid work and caring obligations.
“The new Act will simplify the reporting and monitoring of gender equality in our workplaces,” Collins said.
“In addition, employers will be able to call on specialised assistance through extra resources the Government is providing the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
“Smaller organisations with fewer than 100 employees are not required to report, but will be able to access advice and education to promote gender equality in their workplaces.
Meanwhile, the Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the passing of the legislation.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, said it was a strong step toward both improving women’s workforce participation and closing the gender gap in Australia’s workforce.
“This is an important piece of legislation that will provide a solid foundation for improving gender equality in employment and in the workplace,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“Recognition in the Act of equal remuneration strengthens capacity for closing the gender pay gap,” Broderick said.
“Enabling greater participation of women in the workforce will also make a significant contribution to strengthening Australia’s productivity.”
Broderick said there were other important elements that significantly improved the legislation.
“Other improvements in this legislation include: the development of gender equality indicators and related industry-based benchmarks; a new reporting framework requiring relevant employers to report against gender equality indicators; improvements to the transparency associated with compliance and the consequences of non-compliance; and an extension of the agency’s advice and education function to all employers,” she said.