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Senate passes bill to address pay gap

Australia is set to address gender pay gaps by requiring large employers to publicly disclose their gender pay gaps by 2024 through a new bill. 

The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 was approved by the Senate last week and is now being considered by the House of Representatives.

It aims to increase transparency and drive action towards closing the gender pay gap by mandating public disclosure of pay gaps for employers with 100 or more workers. 

What are the proposed changes to the bill?

The proposed Bill aims to expand the reporting requirement for organisations with more than 100 employees to disclose their gender pay gap (GPG) data to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is set to be amended so that the WGEA will have to publish the gender pay gap information of relevant employers for each reporting period.

This data is calculated as the difference between the average weekly full-time earnings of women and men, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.

The term ‘minimum standards’ will be renamed as ‘gender equality standards’ and relevant employers will be required to provide executive summary and industry benchmark reports to all members of their governing body.

Additionally, gender equality indicators will now include ‘sexual harassment’, ‘harassment on the ground of sex’ or ‘discrimination’. The Director of the WGEA will be renamed as the ‘Chief Executive Officer’, and there will be a technical amendment to the definition of ‘reporting period’.

The Bill also suggests that GPG data will be publicly available on the WGEA website for the first time. This change follows amendments made in October through the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill, which aimed to increase pay transparency and prohibit pay secrecy clauses.

What are the present rules in Australia?

In Australia, employers must answer a questionnaire about four gender equality indicators, including gender pay gaps. Large employers with over 500 employees must have a policy or strategy for at least one indicator, such as gender pay equity objectives. Employers must also report on employee gender, status, occupation, manager category, and salaries.

They must also give workplace management statistics on employee movement. A public report shows questionnaire responses and data, but not remuneration details.

For an overview of how to complete and submit your report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, please watch this information video:

When to report

The WGEA Portal opens every year on April 1 for reporting, and companies have two months to submit their reports, with a deadline of May 31. Reports cover the previous 12 months, starting from April 1 of the previous year and ending on March 31 of the current year. 

The Questionnaire and Workforce Management Statistics cover the entire reporting period, while the Workplace Profile is completed by choosing a specific date within that period.

Who is included in the 100-employee headcount?

When determining if you need to report, you must count all the full-time, part-time, casual, and temporary employees. Each individual employee should be counted rather than using full-time equivalent calculations. However, independent contractors and employees of a labour-hire or recruitment organisation who are assigned to work in your organisation should be excluded from the headcount.

How to report

The process of reporting involves several steps:

  1. If your organisation hasn’t registered, go to the WGEA Portal and click “Register”.
  2. Log in to the WGEA Portal using the Australian Government Digital Identity System. If your organisation still needs to get a digital identity, apply for one at https://www.digitalidentity.gov.au/.
  3. Check that your organisation and contact details are updated on the Portal before starting.
  4. Choose the program you want to report for and open it on the Portal homepage or under the “Programs” tab.
  5. Confirm that all your details are correct before starting the questionnaire.
  6. Complete the Reporting Questionnaire online about your organisation’s gender equality policies, strategies, and actions.
  7. Fill in the Workforce Management Statistics Excel worksheet to provide information on your employee movements during the reporting period. Each ABN requires its own separate upload.
  8. Fill in the Workplace Profile Excel worksheet to provide information on workforce composition, salaries, and remuneration. Choose between a Unit level file or an STP file.
  9. Resolve any potential issues (data anomalies) with your uploaded files that are identified after the automatic data check. Correct and re-upload the files if necessary.
  10. Generate your report documents, which include the Questionnaire, Workforce management statistics table, Workplace Profile table (composition data), Workplace Profile table (salary/remuneration averages), and Reporting Overview.
  11. Have your CEO or equivalent review and approve your report documents.
  12. Complete the Declarations & Consents section of the Portal and click “Submit”. You must confirm that your CEO has approved the submission and that your report does not contain any personal information.
  13. Download, share and analyse your report, and comply with the notifications and access requirements. Later in the year, Industry Benchmark Reports will become available for download, comparing your gender pay gaps by industry against de-identified peers.

Australia’s gender pay gap remains stagnant at 22.8% in 2022, with women earning, on average, A$26,596 ($17,279) less than men. The country is ranked 43rd on the Global Gender Pay Gap Index, which is led by Iceland, Finland, Norway, and New Zealand. According to the International Labour Organization, women are paid about 20% less than men worldwide.

Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, said global experience shows transparency encourages organisations to take action to close the gender pay gap in their workplace.

“On average, women working full-time can expect to earn 14.1% less than men per week in their pay packets,” Minister Gallagher said.

“The gender pay gap is also holding our economy back with $51.8 billion a year lost when it comes to women’s pay.

On current projections it will take another 26 years to close the gender pay gap.”

“Women have waited long enough for the pay gap to close – let’s not wait another quarter of a century. The bill will also reduce red tape for businesses, making reporting easier.”

This reform was recommended by the 2021 Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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