Update on the The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012
Bill to improve gender equity at work
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 has been introduced to Parliament and has been the subject of a Inquiry by the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee. The Committee is in the process of compiling its Report on the Bill, with the expected reporting date 08 May 2012.
The Bill is intended to amend the existing Act and better encourage employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce. Equal opportunity in the workplace is an important issue and the amendment to the EOWW Act is therefore much needed. Despite the introduction of the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 almost a quarter of a century ago, women continue to be disadvantaged in the workplace:
- Despite making up half the workforce, women in full-time paid work still earn 17.8% less than men in full-time paid work, amounting to over one million dollars less over a lifetime;
- While women are now more likely to have a tertiary qualification than men, women graduates will earn $2,000 less than male graduates and $7,400 less by the fifth year after graduation;
- Women retire with less than half the amount of savings in their superannuation accounts than men;
- Women are four times as likely to experience sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace compared to men.
It is clear that the current EOWW legislation has been inadequate in addressing persistent inequities and is in need of updating to effectively address new, emerging equal employment opportunity concerns.
NTEU commends the ACTU’s active lobbying in its consultation with Government on the drafting of the Bill, and share the concerns of the ACTU and other in ensuring that the implementation of the legislative reform included:
- a focus on meaningful data collection;
- re-building employee, union and shareholder involvement in the reporting process;
- greater accountability for the development and implementation of EEO action plans;
- development of appropriate minimum EEO standards; and
- a more robust compliance framework
To read updates on the progress of the Senate Committee’s Inquiry click here .
About the Bill
If passed, the bill would change the name of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 to reflect a focus on improving the current imbalances. The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency would also be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
The Bill would endow the Agency with new and expanded functions, expand the Agency's advice and education functions to all employers, not just those who are required to report. The Agency would also be empowered to develop, in consultation with relevant employers and employee organisations, benchmarks in relation to gender equality indicators.
The Bill introduces a new reporting framework in which relevant employers are required to report against gender equality indicators. The changed reporting requirements will be phased-in over a number of years, starting in 2012 and concluding in 2014 when the Minister will set minimum standards in relation to specific gender equality indicators.
The Bill would aim to improve transparency associated with compliance with the Act and the consequences of non-compliance. Reports would be required to be accessible by employees and shareholders, and employees and employee organisations would have the opportunity to comment. The Agency would be enabled to check compliance by requiring a relevant employer to provide the Agency with relevant information.
Potential consequences of non-compliance with the Act would include:
- Naming the employer in a report to the Minister or naming the employer by electronic or other means, such as in a newspaper;
- Ineligibility to compete for contracts under the Commonwealth procurement framework; and/or
- Ineligibility to receive Commonwealth grants or other financial assistance.
For further information on the Bill please contact Terri at the Policy and Reseach Unit via firstname.lastname@example.org
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