What is Australia doing to address pay equity

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					What is the Government doing to address pay

Inquiry into pay equity and associated issues related to increasing
female participation in the workforce

On Thursday 26 June 2008 the Acting Minister for Employment and Workplace
Relations, The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, asked the Committee to inquire into and
report on pay equity and associated issues related to increasing female participation
in the workforce. The inquiry is now in its final stages with recommendations due
to be tabled in October. The report will be made available after it has been tabled
in Parliament. 1

To date the Inquiry has received over 150 submissions and has held 28 public
hearings throughout the country. Submissions and transcripts are available on
the Inquiry website.

Terms of Reference

That the Committee inquire into and report on the causes of any potential
disadvantages in relation to women's participation in the workforce including, but
not limited to:

        The adequacy of current data to reliably monitor employment changes
        that may impact on pay equity issues;

        The need for education and information among employers, employees and
        trade unions in relation to pay equity issues;

        Current structural arrangements in the negotiation of wages that may
        impact disproportionately on women;

        The adequacy of recent and current equal remuneration provisions in state
        and federal workplace relations legislation;

        The adequacy of current arrangements to ensure fair access to training
        and promotion for women who have taken maternity leave and/or
        returned to work part time and/or sought flexible work hours; and

        The need for further legislative reform to address pay equity in Australia.

Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act

On the 1 June 2009, the Minister for the Status of Women, the Hon Tanya
Plibersek MP, announced a review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the
Workplace Act (the EOWW Act) and Agency (EOWA).

The review of the EOWW Act and EOWA is a government review and is being
managed by the Office for Women. 2 At the conclusion of the review, any
recommendations will be progressed within government.

  Submissions to the Pay Equity Inquiry can be viewed at;
  FaHCSIA, Office for Women, Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency:
Terms of Reference

The review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in Workplace Act 1999 will:

    •   Examine the role that the EOWW Act and Agency have in gathering and
        reporting on workplace data.
    •   Examine the contribution that the EOWW Act has made to increasing
        women’s employment opportunities and advancing women’s equality in
        the workplace.
    •   Consider the effectiveness of the EOWW legislation and arrangements in
        delivering equal opportunity for women.
    •   Provide advice on practical ways in which the equal opportunity for women
        framework could be improved to deliver better outcomes for Australian
    •   Consider opportunities to reduce the cost of existing regulation and/or
        ways to ensure that any new legislation is cost-effective and well-targeted.
    •   Consider the EOWW Act and Agency within the framework of existing and
        proposed workplace-related and human rights legislation and policy.
    •   Have regard to the effects of the Act, or any proposed recommendations
        resulting from this review on the economy, the labour market, business
        competitiveness, social inclusion and the general wellbeing of the
        Australian community. 3

Federal Government Pay Equity Initiatives
Provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 that address pay equity

The Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) contains a range of provisions which will better
support women in the workplace, including:
  o Extending equal remuneration provisions to include the right to equal pay for
     work of equal or comparable value;
  o Allowing variation of modern awards for work value reasons;
  o Strengthening the safety net and measures relating to women’s workforce
  o Access to multi-employer bargaining for the low-paid; and
  o Enhanced protections form workplace discrimination.

The DEEWR supplementary submission on the Fair Work Bill 2008, which was
made to the pay equity inquiry in January 2009, contains a most comprehensive
analysis on the provisions of the Fair Work Act that relate to pay equity.4

Equal remuneration provisions

Comparable value

The FW Act will empower Fair Work Australia (FWA) to make orders for equal
remuneration for men and women for work of equal or comparable value. This
extends the current equal remuneration provisions in the Workplace Relations Act
1996 (which only provides for equal pay for work of equal value). This
amendment will boost the scope and effectiveness of the current provisions and
reflects the approach already taken in many states and territories. Importantly,

  FaHCSIA, Office for Women, Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency:
Terms of Reference, available at;
  DEEWR supplementary submission on the Fair Work Bill 2008, available at
the inclusion of ‘comparable value’ removes the requirement to prove
discrimination as a threshold test, and allows comparisons to be carried out
between different, but comparable, work for the purpose of assessing an equal
remuneration claim.

Work value

The FW Act also provides FWA with the capacity to vary minimum wages in modern
awards on ‘work value’ grounds. Work value grounds are reasons justifying the amount
an employee should be paid for performing a particular kind of work, and relate to the
nature of the work; the level of skill or responsibility involved; and the conditions
under which work is performed. Work value claims have been an important historical
avenue for award review, particularly for female dominated occupations or industry
sectors, in state and federal industrial tribunals.

Safety net

A fair and comprehensive safety net of 10 National Employment Standards (NES) and
modern awards will provide all employees in the federal system with clear,
comprehensive and enforceable minimum protections. This is particularly relevant as a
vast proportion of women are award reliant compared to men (21% compared to 14%
in 2008).

Unpaid parental leave

The new NES effectively doubles the amount of unpaid parental leave available to
parents and also provides a new right to request an extension of unpaid parental
leave beyond 12 months, which the employer can only refuse on reasonable
business grounds. Alternatively, parents can access separate periods of up to 12
months unpaid leave, of which the parents can take up to three weeks unpaid
leave concurrently.

Right to request flexible working arrangements

The NES also provides an employee who is a parent or has the responsibility for
the care of a child under school age or who has a disability with the right to
request flexible working arrangements until their child reaches school age or 18
(if the child has a disability). Employers will only be able to refuse a request on
reasonable grounds. The FW Act allows parties to agree in an industrial
instrument to allow FWA to hear and settle disputes arising from an employer’s
refusal of request for a flexible work arrangement.

The General Manager of FWA will conduct research into the operation of requests
for flexible working arrangements under the NES. The research will need to
examine the circumstances in which employees make such requests; the outcome
of such requests; and the circumstances in which such requests are refused.

Personal/Carers leave

The NES also entitles an employee (other than casual employees) to 10 days paid
personal/carer’s leave for each year of service. An employee may take carer’s
leave to care for a member of the employee’s immediate family or household who
requires care or support because of a personal illness, injury or unexpected
emergency affecting the member. All employees, including casuals for the first
time, will be able to access two days of unpaid carer’s leave for each permissible

Individual Flexibility Arrangements

The FW Act allows employers and employees to make arrangements in enterprise
agreements and modern awards that suit their particular needs through Individual
Flexibility Agreements (IFAs). IFAs must make employees better off overall compared
to their award. Individual flexibility arrangements are particularly beneficial to
employees who would like to modify their employment conditions to better facilitate
the combining of work and family responsibilities.

Low paid bargaining

The FW Act introduces special provisions for FWA to facilitate multi-employer
bargaining for low paid employees who have not historically had the benefits of
enterprise level collective bargaining. This would include areas like child care,
aged care, community services and cleaning where female employment is high.

FWA will play a key role in the low-paid stream in order to facilitate the
bargaining process and assist parties to negotiate multi-employer agreement.
This will include broad powers to mediate, conciliate and make recommendations.

Anti-discrimination measures

The FW Act contains expanded anti-discrimination protections to prohibit an
employer from taking adverse action, such as dismissing an employee, altering
their position or paying them less, against an employee or prospective employee
of the employer because of the person’s race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age,
physical disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy,
religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. The protections
against discrimination have expanded on current legislation by prohibiting
discriminatory behaviour falling short of dismissal and adding carer’s
responsibilities as a ground of discrimination.

Under the FW Act, modern awards, collective agreements and individual flexibility
agreements will not be able to include discriminatory terms.

The FW Act preserves certain state or territory laws dealing with discrimination
and/or equal opportunity that might otherwise be excluded by making clear they
are intended to apply to national system employees and employers. Interaction
rules in the FW Act also ensure employees have access to the most appropriate
remedy for their circumstances while also providing protection from ‘double-

Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman administers the Fair Work Act and investigates
workplace complaints and enforces compliance with Australia's workplace laws.
Complaints can be made to the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to pay,
conditions, workplace rights, or discrimination by current or prospective

The Ombudsman’s section of the new Fair Work Online website contains best
practise guides to assist businesses implement best practice initiatives. Topics
include Work and Family, and Gender Pay Equity. Click here to access this section
of the website.
Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission administers The Sex Discrimination Act
1984 which protects individuals across Australia from discrimination on the basis
of sex, marital status or pregnancy and, in relation to employment, family
responsibilities. The Act also makes sexual harassment against the law.

Under the Act, individuals can lodge complaints of sex discrimination and sexual
harassment with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner works to address discrimination, sexual
harassment and other barriers to equality by reviewing legislation, conducting
research and providing policy advice on key issues.

In July 2008, Commissioner Broderick launched her Plan of Action towards
Gender Equality. The Plan of Action has been shaped by the findings of the
Commissioner's national Listening Tour.

The Commissioner will focus on a range of program areas to address sex
discrimination and promote gender equality in Australia, one of which is the
gender gap in retirement savings.

Commissioner Broderick is currently working with experts to investigate the
factors contributing to the gender gap in retirement savings and inform solutions
for increasing women’s economic independence over their lifetime.

State Responses into Gender Pay Equity

In 2000, the Queensland Government conducted an inquiry into the extent of pay
inequity in Queensland. 5 Their submission outlined the initiatives taken in respect
to advancing pay equity for women in the public and private sectors. 6

The Queensland Office for Women is also implementing a range of initiatives
which target some of the underlying causes of gender pay inequity, in particular,
occupational segregation. 7 Initiatives include Women in Hard Hats and Women on
Boards Strategies and a gender analysis toolkit, available on their website. 8

For more information, including a gender analysis toolkit, click here.

  Queensland Government, Submission to the Pay Equity Inquiry, available at;
  Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, Pay Equity: Time to Act, September 2007, Section 5,
available at
  Queensland Office for Women, available at http://www.women.qld.gov.au/
  Queensland Office for Women, Gender Analysis Toolkit, available at
New South Wales
In 1996 the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW held a Pay Equity Inquiry
and in 2000 it established Australia's first Equal Remuneration Principle to redress
the historical gender-based undervaluation of women's paid work. 9 Since 1996 a
Pay Equity Strategy has been produced annually, outlining various pay equity
policies and initiatives.
Most recently the Office for Women’s Policy in the NSW Department of Premier
and Cabinet conducted the Quality Part-time Work Round Table. 10

For more information, click here.

Western Australia

The Western Australia Government undertook a review of the gender pay gap in
2004. Currently the Labour Relations and Economic Analysis Unit provides advice
and assistance to organisations that are interested in improving pay equity,
including a pay equity audit tool which is available on both the EOWA website,
and the Unit’s pay equity page available below.

For more information, click here.

In 2004, the Minister for Industrial Relations, Victoria, announced a Pay Equity
Inquiry to identify the extent of the gender pay gap in Victoria and to investigate
the factors contributing to differences in pay rates between men and women in
The Inquiry released its findings in 2005, which included a list of comprehensive
recommendations. 11

Business Victoria has a comprehensive Gender Pay Equity website including case
studies, reports and tools to assist employers.

For further information, click here.

South Australia

The Office for Women in South Australia has been successful in gaining an
Australian Research Council (ARC) Grant to develop a self-assessment audit tool
focussed on Gender Analysis. The Gender Analysis Project is funded for three
years and the tool will provide a means for Government agencies to ensure they
are meeting the needs of citizens and will explore, develop and refine techniques
for making public policy gender-inclusive and therefore increasingly effective.

For further information, click here.

  New South Wales Government, Department of Commerce, Office of Industrial Relations, Pay Equity
Inquiry, available at;
   New South Wales Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Office for Women’s Policy,
available at http://www.women.nsw.gov.au/RoundTable.html

  Victorian Pay Equity Working Party to the Minister for Industrial Relations, Pay Equity- their future
depends on it (2005)
Northern Territory

The Northern Territory (NT) Government has recognised the importance of the
right to equal pay for work of equal value in Principle 6 of its Workplace Rights

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Office for Women has identified pay equity
as a key element in the economic security of women in the ACT. There is an
Equity and Diversity Toolkit on the Government's website.

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