While Australia’s economy and high standard of living makes it one of the best places to live, our gender equality index calculated by the World Economic Forum has declined.

Australia well behind

Iceland is topping the list for the country with the smallest gender gap, the Philippines placing in the top 5 with New Zealand in 7th place. Australia is lagging behind, coming in at number 24.

Although there are already gender equality measures that businesses of a particular size must abide by, one of the principal objects of the new Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is to promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace.

Have you got more than 100 employees?

The new legislation that took effect in 1 April 2013 states that employers with 100 or more employees, not including those in the public sector, will be required to report on six gender equality indicators. Encouraging employers to measure their progress in reducing their workplace gender gap should help Australian workplaces see improvements in this area.

These six human resources indicators are:

  1. Gender composition of the workforce;
  2. Gender composition of governing bodies;
  3. Equal remuneration;
  4. Availability and take-up of flexible work and support;
  5. Consultation on gender equality issues; and
  6. Sex-based harassment and discrimination.

Gender equality reporting

The first reporting year under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 commenced 1 April 2013 and ends 31 March 2014, but employers will have up to 31 May 2014 to submit their CEO signed reports via the WGEA website.

From the 1 April 2014 – 31 March 2015 reporting year onwards, employers must additionally meet “minimum standards” in terms of gender equality in their workplace. These minimum standards will be set by a specified date prior to the beginning of the reporting period to which they apply. Employers that fail to meet these minimum requirements will be offered help in the form of advice and assistance to reduce their gender equality gap in future years.

If you are an employer with 100 or more employees and you haven’t implemented the systems to be able to accurately collect and report on your gender equality, it’s time to look into this in preparation for the legislation’s yearly deadline.

Best practice human resource management

If you are an employer with less than 100 employees, you are not required to participate in this legislative change. However, it is a matter of best practice for all employers to contribute to closing the gender equality gap. HR managers and HR consultants should be wary of implementing gender equality strategies throughout recruitment processes as well as when determining general staff remuneration, promotions and bonuses during performance management periods.