The government will make it illegal for employers to ban staff from sharing how much they earn with one another as part of a suite of workplace reforms to be introduced to parliament this week.
Employment Minister Tony Burke said the ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ bill will include a prohibition on pay secrecy in order address the gender pay gap.
“These clauses have long been used to conceal gender pay discrepancies,” he said.
“Banning them will improve transparency, reduce the risk of gender pay discrimination and empower women to ask their employers for pay rises.”
Gender equity will become a “central objective” of the Fair Work Act under the bill which also will see two new Fair Work Commission panels created to target pay equity and employment in care sectors.
Women make up just 31 per cent of technology workers, according to ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2022 report, and earn less than men in the same field.
Women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) roles earn on average $27,000 less than men, according to the latest STEM Equity Monitor from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
But as a percentage, the gender STEM pay gap (18 per cent) is slightly below the national average for all industries (20 per cent).
The government has signalled it is looking to address pay equity to help lift wage growth with this week’s bill containing tools for Fair Work to “order pay increases for workers in low-paid, female-dominated industries” through an equal remuneration principle.
Recent announcements are only part of the bill which the Nine papers reported was hundreds of pages long.
Crucially, the government hasn’t confirmed whether it will contain multi-employer bargaining provisions allowing unions to win enterprise bargaining agreements across entire industries to reach staff in smaller businesses.
Multi-employer bargaining was called for by head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Sally McManus who in August told the Sydney Morning Herald there was a real need to “reset the whole discussion about productivity in this country”.
“At the moment workers are hearing that it means working harder for less and they’re not getting anything out of it.
“Productivity isn’t about working harder for less – it’s about working smarter, adding better value, all of those things.”
Business groups have been rallying against the hint of multi-employer bargaining with the likes of Australian Industry Group Chief Executive saying it would “lead to more strikes and less jobs”.
Along with first details about the government’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill, last week also saw an interim report from the Select Committee on Work and Care which offered immediate recommendations for the government to consider as part of its workplace reform agenda.
One of those recommendations was to consider establishing a “right to disconnect from work” to address the way a move to work-from-home has “weakened the boundaries around working hours and increased working time”.