24 Nov 2011

Operating at best practice: Australia to establish a standard on gender bias in job evaluations

by Stuart Pill, Catherine Woodin

Standards Australia paves the way for the introduction of a Standard aimed at eliminating gender bias in job evaluation schemes.

Last year, Standards Australia established a committee made up of key stakeholders, including representation from employers and unions and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, to develop a Standard aimed at eliminating gender bias in job evaluation schemes.

Through that process, in July 2011, Standards Australia released for public comment the draft Gender-Inclusive Job Evaluation and Grading Standard DR AS 5376.

The draft Standard is largely derived from an existing Standard that was developed in New Zealand in 2006, the Gender-Inclusive Job Evaluation (P8007/2006), which itself is based on international best practice.

What the Standard intends to achieve

The draft Standard observes:

  • Gender bias can occur in any of the processes involved in describing, analysing and evaluating jobs, and in grading jobs, particularly if the processes are affected by assumptions about the nature and value of work in occupations mainly held by women or men.
  • Although gender bias is common, it is most often unintended and unconscious.

To address gender bias in job evaluations, the draft Standard seeks to enable employers to check that any job evaluation is conducted according to best practice by:

  • assisting job evaluators to identify and address gender bias in job evaluation;
  • prompt structured participation regarding job evaluations; and
  • provide guidance and principles to assist in the classification of jobs and procedures regarding salaries to minimise gender bias in how jobs are described, evaluated and graded by assessing employer practices for gender bias.

How it will work

The draft Standard acts as a source of information for employers by setting out recommendations for the weightings of factors against which jobs should be evaluated, job data collection techniques and guidance on auditing of job evaluation processes for gender inclusiveness.

The draft Standard also stipulates guidelines as to how employers can mitigate the risk of gender bias through good communication and the keeping of accurate and transparent documentation.

These guidelines apply to not only new job evaluation and grading processes but also for reviewing and improving existing job evaluation and grading projects.

Importantly, the draft Standard is presented in four sections:

  • Section one sets out the relevant definitions, objectives and parameters for compliance. Notably, "job evaluation" is defined as a "means of determining the relative importance of jobs in an organisation. Job evaluation measures the relative contribution jobs are required to make to the achievement of organisational objectives".
  • Section two outlines the requirements for planning and preparing for job evaluation projects to ensure that all the information and resources employers need to participate effectively are provided. This section also covers education and training, communication strategies, guidance on benchmarking jobs and the collection of job information.
  • Section three sets outs the evaluation process, how employers can check and monitor their job evaluation outcomes to ensure consistency and the importance of having an appeals procedure to demonstrate commitment to a fair and open process to identify and address gender bias.
  • Section four sets out the requirements as well as optional guidance for the evaluation of jobs and subsequent review and monitoring of job evaluation processes and remuneration grading.

Way forward

It is expected that the draft Standard will be finalised by 30 May 2012.

The draft Standard once finalised will be voluntary. Nonetheless, Standards Australia hopes that it will be adopted by employers in the private and public sector, as has happened in New Zealand with the NZ Standard. The draft Standard should prove to be a valuable practical tool for employers seeking to address gender bias when undertaking job evaluation schemes.

It should be noted that compliance with the draft Standard will not necessarily mean compliance with applicable anti-discrimination laws regarding sex discrimination or the Fair Work Act 2009. Therefore, compliance with this Standard should not be regarded as an absolute "defence" to discrimination or adverse action claims based on sex or gender. However, in conjunction with appropriate diversity policies, adopting such an approach will assist in minimising ongoing gender bias.


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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.