The reporting regime under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (the Act) is now fully operational. From the 2013–2014 reporting period, which commenced 1 April 2013, all non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees (including employees of subsidiaries) must report annually on a set of ‘gender equality indicators’ (GEIs).
The new regime replaces the previous regime of annual reporting on ‘equal opportunity for women in the workplace programs’ which applied in respect of the 2012–2013 and previous reporting periods.
The new reporting obligations
Employers must lodge a public annual report with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (Agency) by 31 May of each year containing information relating to the employer and to the GEIs set out in the Act.
The GEIs are:
• gender composition of the workforce;
• gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers;
• equal remuneration between women and men;
• availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or caring responsibilities;
• consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace; and
• sex-based harassment and discrimination.
The precise information that must be lodged in respect of each GEI is specified by the Minister for the Status of Women (Minister) prior to the start of each reporting period. Thirty-one such matters have been specified for the 2013–2014 reporting period, with an additional eight matters already specified for the 2014–2015 reporting period. This is despite the Australian Industry Group’s submission that only one matter should be specified for each GEI on the basis that employers ‘need time to become accustomed to the new reporting requirements and to implement the necessary systems.’
Notification and access obligations
Employers must continue to comply with the notification and access requirements which came into effect from the 2012–2013 reporting period. That is, an employer must undertake each of the following within a specified period:
• inform employees and any shareholders or members that it has lodged its report and advise how the report may be accessed;
• provide access to the report (excluding personal information, remuneration details and any other information specified by the Minister) to employees and shareholders or members;
• inform each employee organisation with members in its workforce that it has lodged its report; and
• inform the abovementioned employees and employee organisations of the opportunity to give comments on the report to the Agency or to itself.
Further obligations under the Act in relation to ‘minimum standards’ will not come into effect until the 2014–2015 reporting period. From April 2014, if an employer does not meet a minimum standard set by the Minister, and fails to improve against the minimum standard by the end of two further reporting periods, it may be non-compliant with the Act.
Consequences of non-compliance and lessons for employers
Failure to comply with any of the obligations outlined above may have the following consequences for employers:
• the Agency may name an employer, including details of its non-compliance, in a report to the Minister or by electronic or other means; and
• an employer may not be eligible to compete for contracts under the Commonwealth procurement framework, or for Commonwealth grants or other financial assistance.
Many employers will need to develop new systems to collect and analyse data in order to meet their new reporting obligations.
Individual employers should seek advice as to the changes that they will need to implement, to ensure compliance with their new reporting obligations and avoid the consequences of non-compliance.
For further information or advice on the above or any other workplace matter, please contact: