SYDNEY 23 September 2018 - The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) welcomes the Shorten Labor party’s policy announcement on improvements to reporting and accountability of Australia's largest companies for their gender pay gaps.

WEL NSW Convenor Philippa Hall said, “It is clear that leaving it to employers to address proactively has not been effective, and it is not a way to achieve real gender pay equity for 50% of our population,” said Ms Hall.

The gender pay gap has hovered between close to 15% and 17% for almost 30 years. The small fluctuations seen reflect stages of the bargaining cycle, and it is likely that the recent small fall in the gap reflects Australia's wage stagnation and the relative fall in wages in male-dominated work.

“Although some companies are taking serious steps to understand and address their gender pay gaps, some have not undertaken a pay equity study and some that have done nothing to address what they found. The extra step of requiring public reporting, and accountability at board level, is clearly needed. Transparency is also improved through prohibiting pay secrecy clauses in agreements,” Ms Philippa Hall.

“Legislated transparency and reporting is the accountability needed to compel these organisational leaders to look at their systems and structures.”

“This announcement gives WEL hope that political leaders are finally understanding that the gap is a serious problem, and will never fix itself.”

“Changes are also needed in the ordinary operation of the industrial system. It is interesting to note that the lowest gender pay gaps have been achieved through requiring industry-level bargaining.”

Organisation level pay equity studies can identify issues such as gender gaps in starting rates, performance pay, bonus levels. Other measures, including better pay equity legislation, are needed to identify occupation and industry-wide problems of undervaluation in female-dominated of work. The very disappointing results of the early childhood educators pay equity case show the need for better legislation, and for better support in taking cases. 

WEL sees these changes as a worthwhile beginning. It will be very important for WGEA to undertake reviews and audits of the pay equity audits companies do, to assess their level of compliance, the quality of their audits, and their education and support needs. This is a role the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK carries out for their comparable requirements for companies over 250 employees to undertake and report audits.

The audit and reporting requirements need to be progressively implemented throughout the WGEA coverage, down to organisations with 100+ employees.

“The inclusion of contract compliance provisions is heartening. Requiring companies to meet their WGEA obligations in order to be eligible for government grants and contracts is the motivator that is needed to deliver compliance,” concluded Ms Hall.


Available for comment: Philippa Hall – M: 0466 273 308 E: [email protected]

About Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) NSW:

Women’s Electoral Lobby is an independent, non-party political feminist lobby group that for over 45 years has worked tirelessly to improve the position of women in society.