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15 Mar 2012

Equal employment opportunity: A new phase for gender equality

by Cynthia Elachi

The inclusion of men brings with it a new era for equal employment opportunity.

In keeping with an election campaign commitment, the Equal Opportunity For Women In The Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced into the House of Representatives on 1 March 2012. Its focus is to improve workplace participation and flexibility, recognising that equal remuneration, and family and carer responsibilities are central to the achievement of gender equality. Importantly, it highlights that these issues are not only for women, but men also.

The new principal objects of the Act are:

  • to promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace;
  • to support the employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workplace, in recognition of the disadvantaged position of women in relation to employment matters;
  • to promote, amongst employers, the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters (including in relation to family and caring responsibilities);
  • to foster workplace consultation between employers and employees and issues concerning gender equality in employment and in the workplace; and
  • to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of gender equality in employment and in the workplace.

In light of the amended Act, the Equal Opportunity For Women In The Workplace Agency will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, with its primary function being to advise and assist employers in promoting gender equality in the workplace.

The Bill also introduces a new reporting framework including where relevant employers will be required to report against matters specific to gender equality:

  • 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 any instrument made by the Minister.

Organisations with fewer than 100 employees are not required to report, although they will be able to access the assistance of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

The inclusion of men in the amended legislation brings with it a new era for equal employment opportunity, recognising that equal remuneration, family and carer responsibilities are issues for both women and men alike.

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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.