Minister announces the way forward for women in the workplace
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis has announced a suite of reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) and Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today Minister Ellis announced that an additional $11.2 million over 4 years would be provided to give the Agency the powers it needs to drive gender equality in Australian workplaces.
Under these reforms, businesses will for the first time, be required to report on the actual figures of gender composition of their organisations and their boards, on their employment conditions, and whether they have flexible work practices for men and women.
Where businesses were previously required to establish and report on workplace equity plans, they will now report on tangible outcomes about how women and men are faring in the workplace.
Pay equity will be enshrined in the objects of the Act and businesses will be required to report against it. This will allow the Government to see where gender pay gaps are emerging, improving or growing.
The Agency will be given robust new powers to ensure that businesses are complying with the legislation.
There will be regular spot checks to ensure that the information that organisations are providing to the Agency actually matches how they conduct their day to day business.
CEOs and employee representatives will be required to sign off on reports. Businesses will also be required to provide these reports to employees and shareholders.
The power of the EOWA Director to waive the requirement that a business has to report will be removed.
Minister Ellis said the Government wants to know what is happening in all businesses with more than 100 employees – with no exceptions.
Underpinning the new reporting framework is a substantial investment in a new IT system that will save businesses time and money.
Rather than the paper-based system used to date, businesses will now be able to report online using a secure web portal.
Businesses will also be able to get support and advice on line – linking them to electronic tools, resources and live support.
The Government will also introduce mobile support teams of Agency staff who can be deployed to provide advice, work plans and resources to businesses who request it.
Ms Ellis said that the Government’s reforms would give the Agency the muscle it needs to make a real difference when it comes to gender equality in the workplace.
Businesses who do not comply with the Act will be ineligible to receive Government funded grants or access industry assistance. Government trade with noncompliant businesses will not just be discouraged – it will be the law.
The Act will also be amended to reflect contemporary challenges in our workplace – including the sharing of work and family responsibilities between men and women.
To reflect this new focus, EOWA will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and will be led by a new Director, Ms Helen Conway.
The Government and the Agency will be working with business and other key stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.
The new legislation will be introduced this year, with the first reports under the new system scheduled to start in 2013.
For more information on the Australian Government’s reforms to EOWA and its underlying legislation go to: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/women/progserv/economic/Pages/EOWA_fact_sheet.aspx