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Opinion by Jon Bragg - March 4, 2022

New gender equality standards for big business

A government review has made recommendations to accelerate workplace gender equality outcomes while reducing regulatory burden.

Large employers are set to face stricter gender equality standards as part of a series of recommendations from the government’s review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

Businesses with 500 or more employees would be forced to commit to, achieve and report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on “measurable genuine targets” focused on improving gender equality in the workplace.

Targets would need to be set by large employers on three of six gender equality indicators, which include workforce gender composition and equal remuneration between women and men, with policies or strategies in place that cover all six indicators.

The review also recommended that gender pay gaps be published by WGEA at the organisation level rather than at the industry level as they are currently.

Alongside the need to accelerate gender equality outcomes, the review also outlined the need to reduce the regulatory burden for employers.

This would include assisting employers to extract data from their own systems using a digital solution, simplifying some reporting requirements and allowing WGEA to use data that employers already provide to the government.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women Marise Payne said that the government was committed to working towards the implementation of all 10 recommendations from the review.

“The recommendations aim to progress gender equality outcomes in the workforce and streamline the reporting process for business, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw women disproportionately impacted,” said Ms Payne.

“It’s clear that we need to proactively address issues in Australian workplaces to enable women to excel and reach their full potential.”

Ms Payne noted that the review report required further consultation with business on some aspects.

The review involved virtual roundtables and written submissions from a range of businesses, employers, employee organisations, women’s organisations and academics and was originally committed to by the government in the Women’s Budget Statement last year.

“Substantially reducing the reporting regulatory burden for employers will free them to take action on the identified gaps and opportunities and help them accelerate progress on gender equality in their workplaces,” the review found.

The recommendations were welcomed by WGEA director Mary Wooldridge.

“The implementation of these recommendations will accelerate positive change towards gender equality, improve the reporting experience for businesses, enhance insights from our already world-leading dataset, and deepen WGEA’s capacity to work closely with employers to support and advance their efforts,” she said.

“We look forward to supporting the implementation of these recommendations, which will result in Australia having one of the strongest approaches in the world to ensure women and men are equally represented, valued and rewarded wherever they work.”

This article originally featured in Investor Daily