Companies with gender pay gaps on notice


Women on Boards has welcomed the introduction of new federal legislation to compel employers of 100 or more people to share wage data so that Australia’s gender pay gap information can be openly published.


The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 was introduced to the Senate by Minister for Women Katy Gallagher on 8 February 2023.

Under the legislation, WGEA would be allowed to publish gender pay gap information at an employer level as an overall figure and by quartile to encourage change within organisations. Individual employee pay information is not to be published. 

Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, said the ability to publish the data is one of the ten recommendations from the 2021 Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 which the Labor Government has committed to implementing. 

"WOB participated in the WGEA review and is delighed to see the government working systematically through implementing this excellent and very well thought out recommendation."

As the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Director Mary Wooldridge said, "these reforms are a significant step forward for gender equality and ensuring workplaces are fair and equal for all Australians."

While the ability to publish gender pay gap data at organisational level is a key plank in the pathway to closing the gender pay gap, Claire warned that lessons needed to be learnt from the UK experience.

Research in 2021 by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, which is Chaired by former Australian PM Julia Gillard AC, and the Fawcett Society, analysed gender pay gap reporting systems in the UK and five other countries: Australia, France, Spain, Sweden and South Africa.

It found the UK ranked joint-last among these nations for the strength of its system, in part because it doesn’t mandate that employers with pay gaps take steps to address them. 

Claire said that the key message from the research was that transparency in reporting is not always enough to drive organisations to take action, as they are under no obligation to do so.

"It's a bit like the wave of unconscious bias training which swept corporate Australia. Knowing you are unconsciously biased and actually doing something about it are two very different things," Claire said.

The new bill is also picking up on other recommendations, with Minister Gallagher saying it will help reduce red tape for businesses making it easier to report and require CEOs to hand over the executive summary and industry benchmark report to all members of their governing body.

Reporting will commence in 2024, drawing on data already provided by employers.


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