Mandatory reporting requirements for businesses and beefed up powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner are crucial to reducing the pay gender gap, say unions.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said self-regulation had failed to close the 17% pay gap, and business had to face tougher scrutiny of action to achieve pay equity.
Reports today that the government is considering forcing businesses to report every two years on what they are doing to tackle the gap between men and women’s pay were encouraging, she said.
Ms Burrow said women and unions wanted to see further action soon to address barriers to equal pay.
“Over the course of her career, the average Australian woman will earn $1 million less than her male counterpart,” Ms Burrow said.
“Almost 40 years since women won the right to equal pay, it is time for business to take more responsibility for reducing this gap.
“Business audits will create transparency around pay equity, women’s participation and equal opportunity as a first step to eliminating discrimination.
“But tougher reporting requirements alone are not enough.
“There needs to be a fundamentally new approach to how we value women’s work.
“Female-dominated industries such as community and social work are among the lowest paid in Australia.
“Unions are backing a major test case to secure fair pay rates for more than 200,000 workers in this sector, whose skills and qualifications are not properly valued.”
A new Equal Pay Alliance of about 150 organisations across business, unions and the community was recently formed to campaign for a range of measures to better value women’s work and close the pay gap.
Ms Burrow said women faced barriers to full participation in the workforce that were causing them to be left behind men when it came to pay.
Measures that could help close the pay gap included more flexibility in rostered hours and access to decent part-time jobs, accessible and affordable out-of-school care and childcare, and opportunities to build skills for women re-entering the workforce after raising children.