Fair Work Amendment (Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2015
1. The Law Council of Australia is pleased to provide the following submission to the Senate Education and Employment Committee on the Fair Work Amendment (Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2015. This submission covers:
• engagement of Articles 2, 3, 5 and 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Articles 3 and 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
• engagement of the International Labor Organisation Equal Remuneration Convention and Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention;
• impacts of increased transparency of remuneration on the retention and progression of women lawyers; and
• industrial law related issues associated with the Bill.
2. The Law Council of Australia, Law Society of New South Wales and the Law Institute of Victoria support the aims of the Bill as a useful mechanism to assist in addressing the gender pay gap within the Australian community. Data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WEGA) indicates that the gender pay gap currently stands at 17.9%.1 On a trend analysis, it has barely shifted over the last decade. Since 1995, the gender pay gap consistently ranged between 15 and 17 per cent.2 However, when the issue of pay transparency is factored in the gap tends to be greater, particularly in comparing the pay levels for awards, collective agreements and individual arrangements.3
3. The Law Council is of the view that the Federal Government has an obligation under international law to introduce laws aimed at bringing about equal remuneration for work of equal value, with Australia having ratified the CEDAW, ICESCR, and the Equal Remuneration Convention and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention.
4. Removing legal prohibitions on workers discussing their pay will assist in removing pay secrecy which can hide discrimination and unconscious bias. Providing the opportunity to discuss pay in an optional, rather than mandatory form, as proposed in the Bill, is the Law Council’s preferred approach from a legal and policy perspective.
5. Laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender and provide for equal remuneration for work of equal value4 have not removed the gender pay gap. Differences in remuneration arising for work of equal value remain. Discrimination is difficult to remove where it is hidden from view. The Law Council has a particular interest where this affects the legal profession, including the retention and progression of women lawyers.