WEL recognises the importance for women of work and financial independence. The reduction of poverty for families and for women in retirement is often dependent on a woman’s opportunity to work.
However a lack of family friendly work arrangements acts as a major disincentive which Governments and employers need to address. Paid Maternity/Parental leave and Child Care are addressed in this website on separate pages. Another area is permanent part-time work. Mere casualisation can lead to income insecurity. WEL is aware that some franchisees using mainly casual workers have not adhered to fair pay for their staff.
A Step Ahead for Equal Opportunity: The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 was introduced to improve gender equality outcomes as well as to simplify reporting for businesses. To reflect its expanded scope, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 has been renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
Click here to read the report by Elizabeth Broderick on the new Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Act 2008
Julia Gillard, former Minister for Industrial Relations in the Rudd Government introduced the Act which passed both houses in March 2008. The Act stopped any more AWAs under the old WorkChoices Act 2005. The old Act marginalised awards. The 2008 Act introduces measures to reform Awards. These new “modern Awards” are to work with the proposed ten National Employment Standards.
CLICK here for WEL submission 2008 to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) on the Award Modernisation process for the Aged Care industry.
CLICK on Pay Gap increases to show how the pay gap between men and women has worsened due to the “two-speed” economy where male wages in industries such as the mining boom have sky-rocketed. The Australian.
For information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics CLICK on Gender Pay Gap Short Changes Women, with women earning 17.4 percent less than their male colleagues – in a media release from the Director of the Australian Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women Agency. A woman has to work an extra 64 days per year to earn as much as her male colleague.
CLICK on this report by the Australian Centre for Educational Research highlighting the fact that female university graduates earn less than males when they enter the workforce.
Australian Women Short Changed
New government research provides new evidence on the gender pay gap and how it affects senior business women. Tania Plibersek MP, former Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women, has launched The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Worplace Agency (EOWA) Gender Income Distribution of Top Earners report in January 2008. Ms Plibersek says the report investigates pay disparity at senior levels in the top 200 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX200). While the average gender pay gap is well documented, this research shows that pay inequity is far reaching and experienced by senior business women, including CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) of large Australian companies. According to the report, female CEOs earn two thirds the median wage of male CEOs and female Chief Financial Officers and Chief Operating Officers earn just half the median wage of their male equivalents.
Also, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveal that a full-time working woman will earn, on average, 84 per cent of a full-time working man’s wage. This is further evidence that from the moment a woman enters the workforce she is likely to earn less than her male colleagues, regardless of her career, industry or level. WEL has been lobbying for workplace equality for the last 45 years – when will it change?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures in November 2010 that show, across Australia, women’s average full-time weekly earnings were 16.9 per cent less than men’s. When part-time and casual work is taken into consideration, the total earnings gap between men and women is 35.3 per cent. This gender pay gap has a significant impact on women’s lifetime earnings. AMP NATSEM’s She Works Hard for the Money: Australian Women and the Gender Divide report quantified that the gender pay gap over a lifetime accumulates to an average earnings deficit of $1.5 million for all women; and $1.8 million for those with bachelor degrees or higher.
The gender pay gap affects women’s superannuation earnings over a lifetime. Even though girls outperform men in university and jobs they earn 17.5 per cent less than men doing the same jobs. Also women are $87,000 poorer in life because they accumulate less superannuation during their working lives.
Discrimination is holding women back in the workforce
A report, commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, details how subliminal and intangible discrimination is holding women back in the workforce and helping to entrench the nation’s gender pay gap. The report urges companies to look ”below the surface” at ”irrational” bias against women, arguing not only that they are excluded from leadership roles but are also ”held to account for being women”. It finds that while some of the 17 per cent earnings gap between men and women can be explained by different occupational choices and other factors, most of the wage difference was ”explained by being a woman or by being a man”. It warns that companies’ attempts to reform their workplaces can be undermined by bias, especially against women in roles of authority.
The committee’s report, comes amid intense debate about the lagging representation of women in senior roles. Quotas for female representation – staunchly opposed by many in corporate Australia including the Australian Institute of Company Directors – were still ”on the table” and could be introduced if things did not improve. ”We are saying very clearly to corporate Australia, we want to work in partnership with you to change this – and it’s an offer that I hope corporate Australia will take that up and we don’t have to take that conversation any further.” According to the government’s census of women in leadership, females made up just 8.4 per cent of directors and 8 per cent of executive managers in ASX200 companies. The report calls for companies to adopt a range of reforms, including making their workplaces more flexible and setting targets for gender diversity. Key government bodies such as Australia Post and NBN Co will have to focus on gender diversity in their board appointments, under the guidelines.
In a September 2010 TV interview Ms Elizabeth Broderick, former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, stated that only three percent of senior managers with profit and loss accountability are women. This comes off a base where Australia leads the world in women’s education. She asserts that the focus must be on men to allow them flexible work arrangements as well as women. Then companies can invest in job redesign rather than follow the existing model where a worker is always available with no caring responsibilities. Currently the need for caring is having a negative effect for women who take the maternal leave entitlement at a time in their careers when employees need to put in the big hours.
Men and Workplace Laws
Companies are to be forced to give fathers who request it flexible working hours so they can play a greater role at home and in child care. A major campaign is required to change workplace equality laws and social attitudes to enable more men to share the parenting responsibility. After making an equal environment for women in the workplace, it’s now time to give men the opportunity to be stay-at-home fathers. Men can also be discriminated against in the workplace when caring for the children. Under proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act, companies will be forced to give working fathers more flexible hours so they can take greater responsibility for child care. Men, as well as women, will now be formally protected from discrimination based on their caring and family responsibilities.
Low Pay in the Community Services Industry
Professor Marian Sawer AO, Emeritus Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations, ANU, reports on equal pay for women. She says that “the community services industry, where the workers are over 80 percent female, has suffered from feminised rates of pay. The current equal pay case, the first under the Fair Work regime, seeks to bring pay rates into line with those for work of comparable value in a male-dominated industry. Low pay is just one of the factors contributing to gender inequality and poverty in old age. The skewed distribution of paid and unpaid work is another, with women still far more likely to have interrupted careers in the paid workforce. Men are in the paid workforce for an average of 39 years, women only for 20 years”. Marian is author of the WEL history: Making Women Count and co-author of “Strengthening Democracy” in the publication More than Luck: Ideas Australia Needs Now, from the Centre for Policy Development.
CLICK and Read what long-time feminist Eva Cox has to say on the 2011 Equal Pay case for workers in the Community Services sector.
In 2011 former Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an announcement to fund wage increases for community sector workers. This may close the 17 percent pay gap between men and women, although it will take years to be actioned in full. CLICK and Read Eva Cox’s comments about this.
The Sun Herald reported on Juggling Work and Families, stating that modern mums bear the brunt of work-life stress because men are still not pulling their weight with the housework. While mums increasingly juggle work and family, fathers are still not doing their fair share of household chores. The paper, “Persistent work-family strain among Australian mothers”, said almost 30 per cent of working mums experienced “strong tension” between work and family responsibilities”. Australian mothers in recent decades have greatly increased participation in the labour market. Fathers have not increased their unpaid household work to a matching degree, it reported. “But without equal sharing … mothers will inevitably feel the work-family tension more keenly.” Mums are likely to have the toughest time managing the balancing act when the youngest child is aged 6 to 11. A Melbourne University study found 66 per cent of women believed they did more than their share of the housework.