Under a new federal government bill aimed at improving gender equity, the gender pay gaps for employers of 100 workers or more will be publicly disclosed.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), Australia’s national gender pay gap is 14.1 per cent. From May 2022, women in Australia earned $263.90 less than men each week. In the construction sector, this gap is higher than the national average, at 18.8 per cent, up from 16.6 per cent in 2021.
To address this, the federal government has introduced the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 into parliament. It brings important changes to the existing Workplace Gender Equality Act.
From 2024, WGEA will publish gender pay gaps of employers with 100 or more workers, shifting the responsibility for action from the industry to individual companies.
“In reporting gender pay gaps, WGEA will look at the difference between the average earnings for men and women at organisations,” says Dr Rachel Howard, Senior Advisor at 89 Degrees East. “For the first time, members of the public, media and government will be able to search company-specific gender pay gap data on the WGEA website.”
The information in the 2024 reports will be based on data reported to March 31, 2023. As well as submitting their filings for the public reports, employers can provide a statement outlining their actions to address the gender pay gap.
“While many companies, particularly those in male-dominated industries, will not be able to close their gender pay gap before public reporting commences, they can take steps to improve it over time, and to create gender equality strategies designed to achieve continual improvement,” says Dr Howard.
Ura Sarfejoo, M.AIRAH, is Pacific Leader, Integrated Technologies – Digital Solutions and Sustainable Infrastructure at Johnson Controls. She is also the founding chair of the Women of AIRAH special technical group (STG) and a board director at AIRAH. She says that the bill is a step in the right direction.
“While the new bill currently only applies to businesses with 100 employees or more, I certainly hope that it serves as a wake-up call for all organisations big and small,” she says. “I hope it encourages the whole industry to be more mindful of the gender pay gap and take proactive measures to close it.
When it comes to the pay gap in the HVAC&R industry specifically, Sarfejoo notes that the data has not been published previously, so it is hard to predict what it will look like.
“But what I can say from experience with similar male-dominated industries that have attempted to close the gender pay gap by bringing more transparency into their practices, is that it won’t be a surprise to find out we still have a long way to go,” she says.
“Like many other industries, the HVAC&R industry is facing significant challenges in attracting and retaining talent. Ensuring that we have more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplaces will guarantee better outcomes for individual organisations as well as the industry as a whole.”
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the Women of AIRAH STG has organised a special event in Sydney to explore the changes and their implications of the Closing the Gender Pay Gap Bill, featuring Dr Howard as keynote speaker. She will explore in detail what is changing under the bill, when the changes are being made, and what businesses will need to do to comply with the new rules.
For more information and to register, go to www.airah.org.au/events