On 22 November 2012 the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act Amendment Bill was passed through parliament. The new Act is called the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and allows for men, as well as women, to be covered under the Act. Aligning with this change, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency has been replaced by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
The principal objects of the amended Act are to promote and improve gender equality in the workplace. The Act focuses on equal remuneration, as well as fostering the importance of family and caring responsibilities as they relate to participation in the workforce. The need to remove barriers to the participation of women in the workforce is identified, as well as acknowledging the disadvantages historically experienced by women regarding matters related to employment. The Act also introduces the publicity of certain data related to employers, extending transparency and thus improving accountability.
Under the new legislation one of the key changes is that related to reporting. The Act aims to make non-public sector employers of 100 or more employees accountable, requiring reporting on ‘gender equality indicators’ such as:
gender composition of the company itself as well as boards and councils;
equality of pay rates for men and women; and
the availability of flexibility in workplace arrangements for employees with family and/or carer responsibilities and the proportion of employees taking advantage of these arrangements.
For the period from 1 April 2012 to 30 March 2013, such employers will be required to prepare a report that sets out the employer’s workplace profile, and that illustrates compliance with certain parts of the new framework. From 1 April 2013 and thereafter, public reports for each reporting period will need to be prepared and lodged with information relating to the employer and the gender equality indicators under the Act.
Employers that are held accountable under the Act should commence preparations within the next few months in order to be ready for the commencement of the first limited reporting period.