Gender pay gap: Big employers must come clean

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) will publish the gender pay gaps for every Australian employer with 100 or more employees from 27 February 2024.

This change is the result of amendments to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 passed by Federal Parliament in March 2023.

Each employer will also have an opportunity to provide an Employer Statement that gives context to their gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay, which is where women and men are paid the same for doing the same work or different work of equal or comparable value. This has been a legal requirement since 1969.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average pay of women and men across organisations, industries and the workforce as a whole. It arises from social and economic factors that combine to reduce women’s earning capacity over their lifetime.

Calculating the gap

Publishing gender pay gaps is a critical part of the legislative change aimed at closing the gap. In 2023, WGEA’s average total remuneration gap was 21.7% (this includes bonuses and overtime). It means women in Australia are earning, on average, $26,393 a year less than men. All employees, both part-time and full-time, are included in this calculation.

“The whole point of putting this into place is to try and drive change and to be a catalyst for workplaces to make that change,” said WGEA chief executive Mary Wooldridge on Radio National Breakfast on 23 January.

“So we will see quite a significant spread. Some employers will have a negative gender pay gap; for example, when they have more women in senior roles, they’re paying women on average more than men. But the vast majority of companies do have a gender pay gap in favour of men, and some of those are quite substantial – 30, 40, 50 per cent. We’ll see those numbers.

“What the evidence shows is that by bringing transparency and bringing accountability by publishing the numbers, that’s a catalyst for companies to take action and improve things.”

Federal Minister for Women Katy Gallagher has said policy on women’s economic security has languished for too long.

“Women continue to experience a gender pay gap due to factors like highly gender-segregated industries and workforces, because of the time women take out of the workforce for caring responsibilities, and because of the high rates of women working part-time in Australia,” Gallagher said.

WGEA is a federal government agency and its reporting requirements have been under review in the recent past, with unions making important submissions to support change, including the requirement for all government agencies to report, when in the past they have been exempt.

Pay gap in education

While women form 73.4 per cent of the workforce in schools and early education and care centres, they comprise 76.6 per cent of the lowest pay quartile, where they earn almost $20,000 less than the average total remuneration.

As we return to the 2024 school year, across schools and early childhood education, women are still earning an average total remuneration of 5.9% less than men (down 1.6% over the last two years). Women’s median total remuneration is 8.9% less than men. In real terms, it means female education professionals earned an average of $2735 less than men last year.

To date, only 38.2% of organisations in the schools and preschool sector have an equal remuneration policy. Barely one in five education workplaces have taken action to address the gender pay gap or even completed gender pay gap analysis for their workforce.

The IEU, along with all unions, will keep driving the agenda to address the pay gap. Governments and employers will need to take bold action to support pay equality for women everywhere, and for IEU members in schools and early childhood education and care.

For results see: