Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 | Armstrong Legal

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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012


The main aim of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is to promote and improve gender equality in employment. It seeks to help employers to remove barriers to gender equality and to promote the elimination of discrimination against women. The Act also establishes the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to oversee compliance with the Act and accompanying regulations.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency

The agency is charged with generally promoting and improving gender equality in Australian workplaces. Its functions include to:

  • advise and help employers to promote and improve gender equality in the workplace, including the development of benchmarks;
  • issue guidelines to employers;
  • review compliance with the Act by assessing public reports lodged by employers;
  • collect and analyse information provided by employers;
  • conduct research and educational programs;
  • work with employers to maximise effectiveness of gender equality processes;
  • promote and contribute to understanding, acceptance and discussion of workplace gender equality.

The WGEA must report to the Federal Government at least every 2 years.

Reporting by employers

The Act requires non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees to submit an annual report, signed by the CEO, to the WGEA. The report must contain the employer’s policies and strategies to achieve workplace gender equality, measured against the gender equality indicators. These indicators are:

  • gender composition of staff;
  • gender composition of governing bodies;
  • equal remuneration between men and women;
  • the availability of flexible work arrangements;
  • consultation with employees on workplace gender equality.

An employer must notify its staff and shareholders that a report has been lodged, where it can be accessed, and that comments can be made about it to the employer or the WGEA.

If an employer is compliant, it will receive a compliance letter from the WGEA.

Non-compliance

Non-compliance can include an employer failing to lodge a public report, giving false or misleading information in a public report or to the WGEA, or failing to improve against the minimum standard. If an employer fails to improve against the minimum standard, the WGEA must offer advice and help to the employer to improve the employer’s performance.

If an employer fails to comply with the Act, the WGEA can publicly name that employer and details of its non-compliance. Before doing this, the WGEA must notify the employer of its intention and give the employer 28 days to respond, as well as help it comply with the Act.

Employers who fail to comply with the Act may not be eligible to compete for commonwealth contracts, or be eligible for commonwealth grants or other assistance.

Employer of Choice citations

The Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation is given by the WGEA to encourage, recognise and promote employers committed to achieving gender equality. The criteria cover seven main areas:

  • leadership, strategy and accountability;
  • developing a gender-balanced workforce;
  • gender pay equity;
  • support for caring;
  • mainstreaming flexible employment;
  • preventing gender-based harassment and discrimination;
  • driving change beyond the workplace.

The program assesses employees’ workplace experiences and allows an applicant to highlight achievements in their workplace. The citation is valid for 2 years. The program is voluntary but the WGEA charges an annual fee of $1950 to an employer hold the citation.

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