Employers want input on gender equality reforms

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Leading employers support reforms to advance gender equality in Australian workplaces and want input in creating change, according to Diversity Council Australia (DCA).

In its recent consultation with member organisations in response to the Australian Government’s call for submissions on the new reporting matters under the Workplace Gender Equality (WGE) Act 2012, DCA found employers consistently supported the new legislation.

Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO, said the new legislation heralds a new phase for gender equality.

“DCA very much welcomes the Act and looks forward to a new phase in Australian gender equality legislation which we hope will deliver tangible improvements in gender equality. 

“Our members who are Australia’s business diversity leaders and major employers strongly support the aim of the legislation and want to provide input on how it is implemented in their workplaces.

“They understand there will be some work to adapt to the new requirements and have asked for detailed guidance and adequate time to prepare for the changes.

“Much has been achieved in improving the position of women in employment in the years since the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act and Agency were introduced. However, there is still much more to be done.

“Few organisations today would argue there isn’t a clear business case for attracting and retaining female talent. But there still needs to be greater progress on key equality indicators such as the persistent gender pay gap and low levels of women in leadership. Women still face significant barriers to their inclusion in employment because of discrimination and particularly as a consequence of the way employment often fails to support women's responsibilities for family care.

“The new legislation represents a great opportunity to build on this work to achieve better outcomes for women, men, families and workplaces,” said Nareen.     

DCA’s submission developed from consulting with member organisations makes the following key recommendations:

Definitions:

Clear definitions and guidance on Gender Equality Indicators (GEIs) must be provided including:

  • ‘Gender composition of the workforce’ and how that might differ from existing reporting. 
  • ‘Governing bodies’ – recognising the need for flexibility across industries, particularly when organisations have governing bodies that are based off-shore or consist of a global team.
  • 'Flexible work arrangements’ that go beyond part-time work to include other arrangements such as telecommuting and compressed working weeks.
  • What adequate consultation might look like depending on an organisation’s size, geographic spread and reporting structures. 
  • How organisations should carry out gender pay assessment, taking into consideration the differences within organisations but also across classifications so pay gaps are not distorted.

Minimum standards:

Industry-based minimum standards must be established in close consultation with industry. Consideration should be given to those organisations operating across different industries and outside of Australia.

Timing:

A phased-in approach is crucial to recognise the challenges of new reporting arrangements. The indicators most closely aligned with the old EOWW Act 1999 framework should be phased-in first and others later.

Process indicators:

Organisations must be offered the opportunity to report on a range of process indicators, recognising that different actions/initiatives will have relevance for different organisations. Change can take time and credit needs to be given where positive action is being undertaken even when outcomes may not yet have been achieved.

Additional measures:

Over time, consideration should be given to encouraging organisations to report on gender intersectionality. Some leading practice organisations are already working in this area with successful initiatives beginning to be put in place for Indigenous women and mature age women.

DCA is working to provide our member organisations with the resources, networks, skills and tools in order to progress gender equality strategies in their workplaces.  We do this through:

  • Our regular Gender Reporting Network teleconferences, providing members with direct access to expertise from organisations such as the WGE Agency and ASX
  • Leading practice face-to-face and teleconference events
  • Cutting-edge research that directly impacts important areas to be measured as outcomes of the new Act e.g. Get Flexible!, Understanding the Economic Implications of the Pay Equity Gap in Australia, Grey Matters to Women and more
  • Making information and leading practice case studies available through our website, fortnightly Diversity Matters Updates and other regular publications
  • Advocating on behalf of DCA members to government
  • Providing expert advice and guidance from DCA staff, many of whom have extensive experience working with and in organisations that implement gender regulatory instruments.

Employers will have time for adjustment to the new system. In 2013 they will report only on their workplace profiles. Full reporting on the new system will occur in 2014, and minimum standards will come into effect the year after that (2015).

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