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Making it Fair: Report to address the pay equity gap in Australia for women

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The report Making it Fair makes 63 recommendations to Federal Government following an extensive parliamentary inquiry into pay equity and associated issues related to increasing female participation in the workforce.

“Australia needs to take a pro-active approach to address the gender pay gap,” said Committee Chair Sharryn Jackson.

“Increasing women’s participation in the workforce will lead to increases in productivity for the nation. How can Australia afford not to do it?”

The report, tabled in parliament, includes calls for:

  • Amending the Fair Work Act 2009 and sex discrimination legislation to make equal remuneration for men and women employees for work of equal or comparable value the explicit object of the legislation.
  • The Federal Government elevating pay equity as a clear objective of modern awards.
  • The Australian Industrial Relations Commission reporting to the Committee prior to the finalisation of the awards on how pay equity principles have been achieved.
  • Amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to make it mandatory for employers who are repeat offenders discriminating on the basis of pregnancy or a carer’s responsibility to be required to attend counselling or an approved training course.
  • Government leadership strategies including an annual pay equity audit reporting for all government agencies.
  • Minimising ‘red tape’ for business.
  • Establishment of a Pay Equity Unit with education, research and enforcement roles to focus approaches to address the gender pay gap.
  • Removal of the exemption from the payment of the nine per cent superanuation charge for employees who earn less than $450 per month.

AICD response to the Report

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) issued a media release in partial response, supporting the findings of the report.
AICD stated that boards need to be more proactive in taking advantage of the value of diversity. In particular, AICD believes that the current proportion of women on major company boards in Australia – 8.3 per cent of ASX 200 company directors according to the latest EOWA data – is not good enough and needs to be increased.

AICD also believes it should take a leadership role in addressing this issue and is announcing a range of new measures to help focus on the value of a diverse board and, in particular, to increase the pool of women available for board positions. The aim of the initiative is to achieve a greater representation of women on boards and in senior executive positions. It will have an impact both in the short-term and in the longer term by addressing the so-called ‘pipeline problem’, the current obstacles to women gaining positions in senior management ranks that could prepare them for future directorship roles.

CLW response to the Report

The Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) issued a report commending the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations for its Report.

“Giving women the opportunity to present their case of pay inequity through amending the Fair Work Act 2009 will empower them legislatively. Educating young girls and women about gender equity is a much needed direction that will have positive benefits in breaking down stereotypes and promoting respect and equity for women, thus shaping social perceptions and attitudes towards women,” said Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey, Director of the Centre.

“Will the Committee’s recommendations be the catalyst for change in Australia’s business community as concerns of profit margins drive the economic value of performance, or rather ‘gendered’ performance, valuing men. Businesses need to recognise the proposed pay equity framework is about the proper valuing of work free from gender bias. It requires the dismantling of intrinsic systemic impediments that have ensured that women do not receive the same pay, benefits and conditions for work of equal or comparable value”, she said.

“The hope for Australia to lead this timely and much-needed change for women lies in the leadership of the Australian Government to commence this reform which has been signaled with much fervour in the community and responded to in an unprecedented way by the House of Representatives Committee.”

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