Australian companies are aware. The gender pay gap within major Australian companies will be made public under legislation introduced by the federal government this week.
The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 was introduced to the Senate Wednesday afternoon by Secretary of Women’s Affairs Katy Gallagher.
Under the law, companies with 100 or more employees would be required to provide details of the pay gap in their workplace to the Office for Gender Equality in the Workplacewhich will then make this information public on its website.
“According to current projections, it will take another 26 years to close the gender pay gap,” said Gallagher.
“Women have waited long enough for the pay gap to close, let’s not wait another quarter of a century. The bill will also reduce red tape for businesses, making it easier to report.”
The regime will cover approximately 4 million Australian workplaces, representing approximately 40% of the total Australian workforce.
According to the most recent data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap in Australia is currently 22.8%, with women earning nearly $26,000 less than their male colleagues, or 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.
There was no improvement in the gender pay gap from the previous financial year, with seven in ten Australian employers having a gender pay gap.
The data also showed that women are still underrepresented in leadership positions.
When introducing the bill, Gallagher said that $51.8 billion is lost annually in women’s wages because of these disparities.
The legislation requires the publication of the specific data on the pay gap from next year.
This information is already provided by employers, but is not made available to the general public.
The explanatory memorandum to the bill states that it aims to “promote accountability and encourage accelerated action and change within organizations to close the gender pay gap”.
The bill would amend the current Gender Equality at Work Act to lift the agency’s ban on publishing or using any personal or pay-related information in its public reports.
If approved by parliament, the agency may publish the gender pay gap for any relevant employer for any reporting period.
A recent study found that the changes are necessary as the current approach “does not create the transparency, accountability and insights needed to close the gender pay gap quickly enough”.
As part of the assessment, gender pay gaps down to employer level were identified by some submitters as “arguably the most important variable”.
The federal government is actively seeking to improve transparency on pay rates to address the persistent gender pay gap.
earlier this year the government legislation to prohibit the payroll secrecy policy which prevented workers from comparing how much they were paid, and in turn served to hide gender pay gaps.
According to government data, women earn an average of $27,000 less than men in all STEM industries, representing a pay gap of 18%. This is down from $29,000 in 2020.
The gender pay gap is 25.3% in professional scientific and technical services and 14.8% in information media and telecommunications.
Labor’s new bill also requires CEOs to hand over the executive summary and industry benchmark report to all members of their governing body.
The Office for Gender Equality in the Workplace was launched in late 2012 to promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces, and is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Under current law, companies with 100 or more employees are required to report to the agency each year, using six indicators: gender composition of the workforce, gender composition of governing bodies, gender pay, availability and usefulness of working conditions , employment conditions and practices, consultation with employees on gender equality issues and gender-based harassment and discrimination.