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January 7, 2013

Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Act 2012 received Royal Assent on 6 December 2012. It amends the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 and changes the title of the Act to Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

It imposes new reporting requirements on employers (including higher education institutions that are employers and non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees).

The name of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency is also changed to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The WGEA will monitor employer compliance.

New reporting obligations
A new reporting framework which requires employers to report against gender equality indicators will be phased in over a 2 year period.

If a relevant employer’s number of employees falls below 100, it must continue to report until employee numbers fall below 80.

The reporting period under the WGE Act refers to the 12 months from 1 April to 31 March, with reports being due between 1 April and 31 May.

For the reporting period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, relevant employers will be required to prepare a public report which sets out the employer’s workplace profile and to comply with limited parts of the new framework.

Employers will be required to make public reports accessible to employees and shareholders and unions.

For the reporting period commencing on 1 April 2013 and onwards, a relevant employer must prepare and lodge a public report containing information relating to the employer and to the gender equality indicators. The report must be signed off by the employer's CEO. New minimum standards will also be required to reported on from the 2014–15 reporting period.

The public report must:
(a) set out the workplace profile;
(b) describe the employer’s analysis of the issues in the employer’s workplace relating to equal opportunity for women;
(c) describe the actions taken by the employer during the reporting period to address the priority issues identified in the analysis; and
(d) describe the actions that the employer plans to take in the next reporting period to address the issues relating to employment matters that the employer would need to address to achieve equal opportunity for women in the workplace.

The gender equality indicators that a relevant employer must report on are:
• gender composition of the workforce;
• gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers;
• equal remuneration between women and men;
• availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or caring responsibilities;
• consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace; and
• any other matters specified in an instrument made by the Minister.

The employment matters are defined as:
• the recruitment procedure, and selection criteria, for appointment or engagement of persons as employees
• the promotion, transfer and termination of employment of employees
• training and development for employees
• work organisation including flexible working arrangements
• conditions of service of employees including equal remuneration between women and men
• arrangements for dealing with sex-based harassment of employees in the workplace
• arrangements for dealing with pregnant, or potentially pregnant employees and employees who are breastfeeding their children
• arrangements relating to employees with family or caring responsibilities.

Although the Agency may identify non-compliant employers in its annual report to the Minister ("name and shame") there are no penalties under the WGE Act.

Ineligibility for government contracts, grants and financial assistance may also be a substantial consequence for non-compliance with the WGE Act.

Employers may be subject to financial penalty (under the Fair Work Act 2009) or be ordered to pay damages (under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984) if they unlawfully discriminate against their employees on the basis of gender.

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Posted 7th January 2013 by David Jacobson in Workplace