Time is running out for relevant employers to submit this year’s Gender Equality Report. 

Businesses with 100 or more employees have until May 31 to meet the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) deadline. 

The online reporting process, mandatory under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth), asks organisations to provide a workforce profile and report on specific gender equality indicators and standards.  

The information collected is important, says Ai Group’s National Manager -Workplace Relations Policy, Nicola Street. 

The data not only informs public policy responses to improve gender equity and workforce participation in the community, but it also informs how businesses can improve organisational performance," Ms Street said.

"Research is now clear that a gender-equal, diverse and inclusive workforce increases operational and financial performance.

"It also enables businesses to reflect on what they have in place and how they can improve. They can benchmark themselves against their industry competitors regarding the sorts of practices being implemented. 

“For example, we now have 60% of organisations who report to WGEA who provide some form of paid parental leave, in addition to the government-funded scheme.”  

Australia’s national gender pay gap has hovered between 13% and 19% for the past two decades, WGEA says. 

In the past year, however, the gap has narrowed by 0.4 percentage points to 13.8% as an increase in average weekly ordinary full-time earnings was stronger for women than it was for men.  

There are also more women working full time. 

Full-time employment for women is one of the fastest growing categories of employment that has occurred in recent months,” Ms Street said. 

The Commonwealth Government’s recent review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) will likely increase scrutiny placed on business equity strategies, including whether larger organsiations are meeting gender equity-based targets and the publishing of organisational gender pay gaps. 

Understanding the gender pay gap is important. There are three main causes for the disparity:  

Time out of the workforce 

Women are more likely to experience this than men. However, time out puts their career on hold, or they don’t progress as quickly as men because of part-time work arrangements. This contributes to lower renumeration. 

Unconscious bias 

This is a level of often-unintentional discrimination in favour of men and against women in pay decisions and hiring and promotional decisions. 

Gender-segregated industries and occupations 

Australia has a highly segregated workforce based on gender. For example, manufacturing businesses are largely male-dominated while care industries are largely female-dominated. Generally speaking, male-dominated sectors attract higher wages than female-dominated sectors, particularly as they relate to the amount and frequency of discretionary pay such bonuses and overtime.  

“That exacerbates the gender pay gap,” Ms Street said. 

“It’s a complex problem with different causes so this reporting framework is designed to engage with businesses so they are thinking about pay equity and their own remuneration practices as to how merit is assessed and rewarded."

Ai Group is in a prime position to help businesses with the reporting process. 

“We get many requests for assistance because it is quite labour intensive,” Ms Street said. 

“We can also advise on industry practices and relevant benchmarks based on the various networks that we run here and the regular contact that we have with industry on these issues. 

“Questions I often get are ‘what is the industry or national standard for paid parental leave or for gender equity policies or for paid family domestic violence leave?’ 

“We are only going to see this reporting structure develop and evolve to interrogate more closely what businesses are doing and ensure they are making progress as best as they can, in respect of certain gender equity targets. 

“Being able to support and demonstrate that there is pay equity is something that businesses should be turning their minds to, if they haven’t already.”  

For help in meeting WGEA’s May 31 reporting deadline, please phone Ai Group’s Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77. 

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.