New Gender Equality Framework in VIC

A new framework in Victoria requiring the public sector, councils and universities to promote and take positive action towards achieving gender equality.

This alert applies to the public sector, Councils and Universities and will likely create a new VIC-Gender Equality topic.

Gender Equality Bill 2019 (Vic)

Please be advised that the Gender Equality Bill 2019 (Vic) (the Bill) passed its third reading on 20 February 2020 and received Royal Assent on 25 February 2020. The Bill is due to commence on a day yet to be proclaimed or on 31 March 2020. Part 9 of the Bill (which amends the Local Government Act 2019 (Vic) commences on 1 July 2021.

Overview

Current law in Victoria aims to prevent discrimination based on gender, however there is currently no law to proactively progress gender equality.

The Bill is the result of extensive public and stakeholder consultation into taking positive action towards achieving gender equality in the workforce. The Bill proposes new obligations for the Victorian public sector, universities and councils, to plan, implement strategies and report on gender equality in the workplace. The Bill sets out a framework to require the public sector, councils and universities to promote gender equality and to take positive action towards achieving gender equality.

Defined entities

The Bill will apply to defined entities with 50 or more employees, being:

  • Public service bodies
  • Public entities
  • Special bodies (as defined by section 6 of the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic)
  • Councils
  • Universities, within the meaning of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic); or
  • Court Services Victoria; or
  • Office of Public Prosecutions

Proposed section 7 imposes a duty on defined entities to promote gender equality in their policies and programs and in delivering services to the public. The Bill will have a broad reaching impact on many of our clients.

Defined entities will now be required to undertake gender impact assessments when developing or reviewing any policy of, or program or service provided by the entity that has a direct impact on the public. Defined entities will be required to develop a Gender Equality Action Plan every four years after conducting a workplace gender audit.  Workplace gender audits must assess the state and nature of gender inequality in the defined entities workplace as at 30 June in the Gender Equality Action plan reporting year to which the audit relates. Organisations will be required to report publicly every two years on their progress and will also be required to make reasonable and material progress against any targets and quotas set by the State Gender Equality Action Plan. Targets could involve a range of issues from equal pay, to sexual harassment, and career-progression practices. Defined entities will also be required to prepare a progress report to demonstrate actions taken to achieve gender equality indicators and targets. The progress report is to be published on the defined entities website as soon as practicably after being submitted to the Commissioner.

Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner

The Bill establishes the office of the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner, who will have powers to take steps to ensure defined entities comply with their obligations under the Bill. The Commissioner will have the power to issue a compliance notice to a defined entity if the Commissioner has a reasonable belief that the entity has failed to comply with the legislation. Failing to prepare a Gender Action Plan or failing to submit that plan by 31 October in each reporting year (section 12) are ground for the issuing of a notice under the Bill. An entity will also have failed to comply with the Bill if they have not prepared a progress report or failed to produce that report by 31 October of each reporting year (section 19). In addition, a defined entity will not have complied if they fail to make reasonable or material progress towards gender equality targets or quotas. A defined entity must comply with a compliance notice from the Commissioner.

Please click here to access the full Bill.

Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au

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