Gender equity and your workplace

Catholic dioceses, other education systems, and independent schools with over 100 staff report each year to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, with this year’s reporting deadline extended until the end of July because of COVID-19.

Under the provisions of the Workplace Gender Equality Act, these employer reports should either be forwarded to the IEU as a relevant union or the union formally advised that the report has been lodged with WGEA.

Reports are a valuable resource

The reports to WGEA are a valuable source of information for IEU members as they include statistical information about the employer or workplace, such as the percentages of female and male staff and access to flexible arrangements such as part time and job share positions.

For example, in a recent report received by the IEU from an independent school, it showed that there are 220 employees with a gender composition of 62 per cent female and 38 per cent male. Twenty per cent of employees were part time and no part time staff gained any promotion positions.

The reports to WGEA also indicate whether there are policies (or not) in regard to key gender areas or if these are ‘under development.’ These areas include:

  • selection, appointment and promotion processes
  • pay equity/gender pay gap
  • access to flexible working arrangements for parents and carers
  • policies and practices to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace
  • support for staff who may be experiencing domestic or family violence
  • processes in place to consult with staff and their union.

Focus on flexible work arrangements

In 2012 the legislation was changed to become the Workplace Gender Equality Act with a focus on ensuring that, for example, both women and men have access to parental leave provisions and to flexible work arrangements as parents and carers.

The practical implications of this equity language are significant and part of the IEU’s current claim for the next MEA for independent schools is to seek paid parental leave (rather than maternity leave) for the primary care giver. This provision already exists in the Catholic sector so that the 14 weeks paid parental leave can be paid to the primary carer of the baby who in some circumstances may be the father or a parent other than the birth mother.

IEU members in Catholic and independent schools and other workplaces have a right to be informed about their employer’s report to WGEA and to raise any issues or concerns directly with the employer and/or with the union. These reports are also placed in due course on the WGEA website at

Pam Smith
Assistant Secretary