Workplace Gender Equality Report

If your organisation has 100 or more employees (excludes public sector) then you are required to report annually to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency against the six Gender Equality Indicators (GEIs) including:

  • GEI 1: gender composition of the workforce
  • GEI 2: gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers
  • GEI 3: equal remuneration between women and men
  • GEI 4: availability and utility of employment terms, conditions and practices relating to flexible working arrangements for employees and to working arrangements supporting employees with family or caring responsibilities
  • GEI 5: consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace
  • GEI 6: any other matters specified by the Minister in a legislative instrument: Sex-based harassment and discrimination.

This report is due for the previous year’s data between 1st April and 31st May 2015 and is required by law under the Workplace Gender Equality Act (2012).

In addition, if your organisation has 500 or more employees, you must also report against the additional compliance requirements or ‘minimum standards’ for the period 1st October 2014 to 31st March 2015. The additional reporting is required by law under the Workplace Gender Equality (Minimum Standards) Instrument 2014.

For assistance in collecting your data or lodging your report, contact us on 1300 362 226.
For more information on the legislation and reporting requirements refer to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency website on www.wgea.gov.au.

What you can do as an employer?

As a person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBUs) there are some simple steps to work through.

Prevention is better than the cure

The most important step is prevention.  Sometimes it is best to ensure managers and supervisors have been screened before they are employed.  There are many tools available to assess prospective employees and exclude bullies from the candidate list.

If your organisation does not have these practices in place, then you should consider engaging a recruitment firm that can assist with the screening practices.  Typically once a bully gets into your organisation they will employ either like minded people, or in the worst case people who are attracted to being the victim.

Where you are an already well established business, you may need to consider a more intense process to work out if there are any pockets of bullying in your organization.  Surveys, a review of your current grievance notices, sick leave and OHS incidents are all good places to start.

If you have an entrenched bullying culture, all of the policies, procedures and paper records will not help.  These documents may be evidence of compliance, but by themselves they are not evidence of an organisation that doesn’t tolerate bullying.

Supporting Culture

This applies across all areas of employee relations. There are numerous high profile cases where organizations had the appropriate policies and procedures, yet were found liable or were open to a legal claim.

Recently David Jones was involved in litigation for sexual harassment, where one of the prime allegations was a culture where sexual harassment was permitted despite the policies and procedures.  The other element of the David Jones case that was run in the public forum, was that the manager involved was “known” within David Jones for this behaviour, as well at their previous employer.

Interestingly, David Jones paid severance pay to the manager and agreed to pay money to the former employee.  In many instances, the employer is unable to recover these moneys from their insurer.

The issue of culture in the area of corporate compliance cuts across many areas of business, including competition laws and how they are enforced by the ACCC.

Similarly, if you have a bully in your organization and the policies and procedures are ignored, your are still at risk.

Supporting Documents and Processes

Have a documented policy

PCBUs should develop a Code of Acceptable Behaviour.  This should incorporate your Bullying Policy as well as other polices like Anti-Discrimination.

The policy should be negotiated and you should consider consultation with:

  • health and safety committees
  • unions and/or workers
  • managers

The policy should cover:

  • A statement of commitment against bullying and that it will not be tolerated
  • Responsibilities of:
    • the Board  and CEO
    • supervisors and managers
    • employees
  • Examples of unacceptable behaviour and information about what is not “bullying”, eg:
  • Steps to be taken to prevent bullying in the organisation or at a workplace
  • Steps (or the location of the procedure) for investigative, grievance and disciplinary procedures and timetable for actions
  • Steps for employee assistance, including:
    • confidentiality of complaints
    • protection of complainants from victimisation
    • provision of counselling.
  • Potential consequences for the bully:
    • caution
    • disciplinary offence
    • termination offence

Train you staff on the policy

You may like to consider some of the following actions, either as standalone activities or in conjunction with your approach on other workplace issues such as harassment and discrimination:

  • Providing leaflets, feature articles and posters.
  • Provide awareness and skills training
  • Organising meetings to discuss the topic, perhaps with an invited speaker.
  • Conducting a survey of the incidence of bullying.

Ensure managers promote the policy

This includes actions and words.  Given the power imbalance between managers and employees, it is important that when an employee needs to raise the issue of the conduct of a manager, that there is support to ensure that the whole issue is discussed in a mature and balanced manner.

Having managers who are clear on the how the issue is to be managed, provides certainty and reduces the potential for stress.  Managers have a pivotal role:

  • in modelling the expected behaviour
  • responding and managing claims in accordance with the policy
  • where the claim is about their behaviour, cooperating in accordance with the policy

Enable people to work through instances of bullying

For people who have exhibited bullying behaviour, this means learning the appropriate behaviour through access to counselling and education.  It does not mean moving to a new work area so they can start the process again.

For people affected by bullying, this means support during the complaint process and beyond with access to counselling.  It does not mean moving to another work area, which is generally viewed as “punishment”.

Regularly review the policy (and any process) to make sure it works

Circumstances change and expected behaviour needs to keep pace with society’s expectations.  Changes to laws tend to come more slowly.  If you have doubts about what is appropriate seek advice.

What if it goes wrong?

There is always the risk that someone will be unhappy and the conflict cannot be resolved.  In all cases you will need to comply with your policy and when in doubt seek professional advice.