The gender pay gap within large Australian companies will be made public under legislation introduced this week by the federal government.
The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 was introduced to the Senate by Minister for Women Katy Gallagher on Wednesday afternoon.
Under the legislation, companies with 100 or more employees would have to provide details of the pay gap in their workplace to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which will then make this information public on its website.
“On current projects it will take another 26 years to close the gender pay gap,” Gallagher said.
“Women have waited long enough for the pay gap to close, let’s not wait another quarter of a century. The bill will also reduce red tape for businesses making it easier to report.”
The regime will cover about 4 million Australian workplaces, equating to about 40 percent of the total Australian workforce.
According to the most recent data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap in Australia is currently 22.8 percent, with women earning nearly $26,000 less than their male colleagues, or 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.
There was no improvement on the gender pay gap from the previous financial year, with seven in 10 Australian employers having pay gaps in favour of men.
The data also showed that women are still underrepresented in leadership roles.
In introducing the bill, Gallagher said that $51.8 billion is being lost annually in women’s pay due to these gaps.
The legislation will require the publishing of the specific pay gap details from next year.
This information is already provided by employers but not made available to the general public.
The explanatory memorandum of the bill said that it aims to “promote accountability and encourage accelerated action and change within organisations towards closing the gender pay gap”.
The bill would amend the current Workplace Gender Equality Act to remove the prohibition on the agency publishing or using any personal information or information relating to the remuneration in its public reports.
If passed by Parliament, the agency will be allowed to publish public gender pay gaps for each relevant employer for each reporting period.
A recent review found that the amendments are needed as the current approach is “not creating the transparency, accountability and insights necessary to close the gender pay gap fast enough”.
As part of the review, gender pay gaps down to the employer level was identified as “arguably the most important variable” by some submitters.
The federal government is actively trying to improve transparency about pay rates in order to address the ongoing gender pay gap.
Earlier this year the government legislated to ban pay secrecy policies preventing employees from comparing how much they were getting paid, and in turn serving to conceal gender pay discrepancies.
According to the government data, women earn on average $27,000 less than men across all STEM industries, equating to a pay gap of 18 percent. This is a drop from $29,000 in 2020.
The gender pay gap is 25.3 percent in professional scientific and technical services, and 14.8 percent in information media and telecommunications.
Labor’s new bill will also require CEOs to hand over the executive summary and industry benchmark report to all members of their governing body.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency was launched in late 2012 to promote and improve gender equality in Australian workplaces, and sits within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Under the current laws, companies with 100 or more employees are required to report to the agency every year, across six indicators: gender composition of the workforce, gender composition of governing bodies, remuneration between women and men, availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices, consultation with employees on gender equality issues, and sex-based harassment and discrimination.