A recent move by the Federal Government has seen changes to reporting obligations arising under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (Act), including the delay of new reporting obligations that were scheduled to start on 1 April 2014.  The Government has also introduced the first minimum standard under the Act, with which reporting organisations will need to comply.

Gender equality regime

Generally speaking, organisations with 100 or more employees are required to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (Agency) on an annual basis about specified matters pertaining to gender equality.  While these reporting obligations have existed for many years, the effectiveness of the reporting arrangements under earlier legislation was limited, with the Agency’s predecessor largely regarded as a ‘toothless tiger’.

Significant changes were made to the Agency and reporting obligations with the introduction of the Act.  For further information, please click here.  The impact of those changes was seen in the 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 reporting year, with the introduction of considerably more onerous reporting requirements than those that applied in previous years.

Changes to reporting requirements

Additional reporting requirements were due to come in on 1 April 2014, and apply to the 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 reporting period.  However, the Federal Government has announced that the additional reporting requirements will be delayed by one year, and introduced a ministerial instrument to give effect to its announcement.

While it will be business as usual for the 2013-14 reporting year, in relation to which reports must be submitted by no later than 31 May 2014, the delay of additional reporting requirements will provide employers with time to ensure they have adequate systems, strategies and policies in place to comply with their reporting obligations moving forward.  The additional reporting requirements are now due to take effect in the 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 reporting year.

Minimum standard

In addition to changing the reporting requirements for the 2014-15 reporting year, the Federal Government has also introduced a minimum standard for reporting organisations with 500 or more employees.  From 1 October 2014, those organisations will need to have a formal strategy or policy in place in at least one of the following areas:

  • gender composition of the workforce;
  • 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; and
  • sex-based harassment and discrimination.

The strategy or policy must address an objective specified in the minimum standard.

If a reporting organisation that is required to meet the new minimum standard does not do so, it will have a further two year period in which it must improve against the minimum standard, otherwise it will be deemed non-compliant by the Agency. 

Lesson for employers

It is important that employers understand, and comply with, their obligations under the Act.  We recommend that reporting organisations:

  • check that they are in a position to submit their report for the 2013-14 reporting year, which will need to be done by 31 May 2014;
  • comply with obligations to provide notification and access to reports to employees, unions and shareholders;
  • develop a strategy to meet their obligations under the Act over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 reporting years, by ensuring that they have appropriate systems in place to capture the requisite data and information that will be reported on; and
  • remedy any gaps or areas for improvement as soon as possible.

In addition, reporting organisations with 500 or more employees will need to ensure they have at least one appropriate policy or strategy in place by 1 October 2014 to meet the minimum standard.