Gender equality agency wants to expand reporting rules for businesses with 50 staff


The Dream Collective and ShePivots founder Sarah Liu. Source: supplied.

The national agency for gender equality in the workplace wants private businesses with 50 or more staff to report on pay, parental leave and super in a bid to make conditions fairer for workers.

In a submission to a review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) recommended a significant expansion of its reporting regime, which currently requires employers with 100 or more staff to provide information to the agency each year.

As workplace gender equality law currently stands, businesses are required to submit annual reports to WGEA on six gender equality indicators, including the gender of full-time, part-time and casual employees.

Among the other indicators are gender of senior-level staff, remuneration, flexible working arrangements, gender equality consultation and sex-based anti-harassment and discrimination policies.

If WGEA’s recommendation is adopted, those same requirements will apply to private businesses with half the number of employees.

The federal government’s review into the Workplace Gender Equality Act aims to update and improve the act so it is fit for purpose for the next 10 years. WGEA, which was established by the act in 2012, has put forward 25 changes in addition to expanding its reporting requirements to cover more businesses.

Other recommendations put forward by the agency include the requirement for employers to provide data on the relative position of women compared to men and non-binary people in the workplace.

“The inclusion of non-binary people in the Agency’s dataset allows for better representation of individuals in the Australian workforce and is reflective of best practice,” the agency wrote in its submission.

WGEA would like to see the collection of data on employee age made mandatory as well as the number of employees who have involuntarily left the business, including by gender, employment status and seniority level.

Importantly, WGEA recognises that “detailed consultation with employers” would be necessary for these changes to be enacted with success.

‘Gender equality fatigue’

Whether workplaces support the range of recommendations remains to be seen, but recent research conducted by the Dream Collective suggests that 80% of men agree gender equality affects everyone and it should be addressed.

The Dream Collective, a global diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy, released the findings of its Allyship and Gender Equality Research, which highlights the attitudes of Australian men working in white-collar positions.

The survey found that while the majority of men agree gender equality is important, older generations and senior to middle management are more likely to be “fatigued” by it.

In fact, 48% of male workers feel fatigued by the notion of gender equality and over half believe that reverse discrimination is occurring.

Sarah Liu, founder and director of the Dream Collective, tells SmartCompany the survey shows there’s an interesting discrepancy between the perception and reality of gender equality in the workplace.

Liu says “it’s quite surprising” that 52% of men feel that they are now suffering from reverse discrimination.

“But when we asked if opportunity for advancement has changed, what we found was that 85% of men said it has either remained the same or improved,” she says.

“It’s very telling when the perception is disconnected to what is actually happening,” she adds.

Liu, who has been an ED&I consultant for 11 years, believes making more businesses report on gender equality may not be the most effective solution to improving equality.

“I don’t feel that necessarily because you have to report on something that will drive the change,” Liu says.

“It could actually create a lot of onerous work, and become laborious for people who are actually already making progress in that space.”


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