Pay Equity Compliance in the Law Down Under

While many states across the U.S. continue to develop new equal pay laws, it is also important for global companies to be aware of equal pay laws abroad. Countries far and wide including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Iceland and South Africa have instituted various forms of laws addressing pay equity issue. While these laws have varying requirements, we look at Australia as an example of the global picture.

In Australia, companies with 100 or more employees are generally subject to the reporting requirements of the Workplace Gender Equality Act (“WGE Act”). For the purpose of this threshold, the number of employees is to be calculated by reference to the combined number of employees (including full-time, part-time, casual and temporary employees) in Australia within the employer’s broader corporate structure. The threshold applies to the combined number of employees in Australia of the parent corporation plus the employees in Australia of any subsidiaries of the parent corporation.

The key requirement for covered employers includes submitting a report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (“Agency”) between April and May each year for the preceding 12 month period.

Reporting Obligations:

The report covers various “Gender Equality Indicators” (“GEI”), including:

  • the gender composition of the employer’s workforce;
  • the gender composition of the governing bodies of the employer;
  • the remuneration of employees;
  • the availability and utility of terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements;
  • consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality; and
  • other matters specified by the Minister, such as sex-based harassment.

The report includes a Workplace Profile and a Reporting Questionnaire which must be completed and signed by the company’s CEO or equivalent. The company must also comply with the Notification and Access Requirements in accordance with the guidance issued by the Agency.

Larger (500 or more) Employer Duties

Employers with 500 or more staff are required to have in place a formal policy or strategy that specifically supports gender equality in relation to the relevant GEI.

A formal policy or strategy must be a written document approved by HR or management, which can be a standalone policy on gender equality or included in the company’s broader diversity and inclusion policy, which supports gender equality in at least one of the nine following areas: recruitment, retention, performance management, promotions, identification of talent and high potential employees, succession planning, training and development, gender equality KPIs for managers and gender equality overall. 

Next Steps

If the Agency determines that a company is non-compliant, the Agency must offer the company advice and assistance in relation to improving their performance against those standards. The company will have two years to improve against those minimum standards. If there is no improvement, then the Agency will list the employer as “non-compliant” in the public report prepared by the Agency to the Minister for Employment. Non-compliant employers may also be ineligible to tender for certain Commonwealth contracts or financial grants. If your organization has more than 100 employees in Australia, or even if you are approaching the threshold of 100 and are likely to tip over the threshold in the following year, now is the time to start gathering the relevant data and to populate the report to begin identifying any gaps.