The peak body for working people has called on politicians to institute deep structural reform of Australia’s workplace relations rules to make them fair for women, including overhauling paid parental leave and removing restrictions on bargaining.

A new report by research consultant Dr Nicole Bluett-Boyd, commissioned by the ACTU, lays out a comprehensive series of recommendations for reform that will address the structural bias against women in our current workplace laws.

They include:

  • The abolition of the concept of “primary” and “secondary” carers, to be replaced by 26 weeks’ parental leave that a family can decide to use however they want
  • The removal of restriction in the bargaining system that prevent women earning a fair wage. Women must be able to collectively bargain.
  • Removing restrictions on bargaining so women can negotiate with someone who has the capacity to say yes to a fair pay rise
  • The payment of superannuation on every dollar that women earn, including on paid parental leave
  • Stronger powers for the Fair Work Commission to proactively tackle gender inequality, including establishing a new expert Gender Equality Panel, giving the Commission the power to hear and determine sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims, and implementing stronger pay equity provisions
  • The right for employees with parenting and career responsibilities to receive – not merely request – family friendly working hours
  • The provision of ten days paid family and domestic violence leave
  • The restoration and protections of penalty rates
  • A proper definition of casual work


Women are more likely to be working casually than men, and are far more likely to be award-dependent, and therefore vulnerable to cuts to penalty rates.

Across society women are paid 14.6 percent less than men and they retire with 43 percent less superannuation.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

“Working women power this country, through both paid and unpaid labour.

“Our workplace rules and structures let women down. Women face an unfair, uphill battle at every turn. Women are paid 14.6 percent less than men, and are retiring with less, often in poverty.

 “We are fighting to change the rules to make work fair for women. This research sets out a clear path we must take.  We must fix bargaining so that women are negotiating with real decision makers who have the capacity to say yes to fair pay rises.

“It’s up to our leaders to show the courage and strength required to make work fair for women.”