Victorian Parliament introduces a landmark Gender Equality Bill

Australian-first legislation to see gender equality targets mandated in Victorian public sector

On 26 November 2019 the Australian-first Gender Equality Bill was introduced into the Victorian Parliament making once-in-a-generation reforms to ensure gender equality is non-negotiable.

The Gender Equality Bill will mean public service organisations, universities and local councils will be required by law to publicly report on their progress against key indicators such as equal pay, sexual harassment and career progression practices.

They will also be required to challenge workplace discrimination, by preparing and implementing Gender Equality Action Plans and undertaking gender impact assessments.

The case for action is clear:

  • One in two mothers reported experiencing workplace discrimination as a result of their pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work
  • Three in 10 employers still do not have a flexible working policy
  • In 2015/16, the average superannuation balances for women aged 60-64 years were 58 per cent lower than those of men the same age, or on average $113,660 less
  • Australia’s gender pay gap is 14.1 per cent
  • Victorian women are doing 63 per cent of the state’s unpaid work.

The new gender equality laws will apply to workplaces in the public service, universities, local governments and organisations such as Court Services Victoria and the Office of the Public Prosecutions.

Victoria’s public sector employers will be required to set gender targets and report what they are doing to achieve them under Australian-first legislation.

Under legislation introduced to Victorian Parliament, more than 300 public sector employers covering more than 300,000 workers, including government departments, councils and emergency services, will have to prove they are “actively pursuing” gender equality targets.

If they fail to report adequate progress, they can be ordered to do so by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The legislation also requires agencies to consider the impact of other forms of discrimination such as racism and ageism on gender equality, rather than sexism in isolation.

Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams: “We’re making history and making gender equality a non-negotiable by law – because it’s 2019 and women and girls deserve every opportunity to succeed…These changes will mean many Victorian workforces will be required to put gender equality front and centre where it belongs…We know we won’t reach gender equality overnight, but this is an important step in the cultural change we’re working hard to drive.”

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