Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012 passed awaiting assent

Monday 26 November 2012 @ 2.18 p.m. | Industrial Law

The Bill amends the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 giving effect the government says to a 2010 election campaign commitment to support gender equality and improve workforce participation and workplace flexibility, through retaining and improving the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999.

For starters the amending law changes the name of the principal Act to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and the reason given for the change is to emphasise that the focus of the Act is on gender equality and seeking to improve outcomes for both women and men in the workplace.

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency will also undergo a name change to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The title of the Director of the Agency will also change to the Director of Workplace Gender Equality, to reflect the new focus of the Act.

The principal objectives of the current law are amended to reflect the new focus of the Act being, to promote and improve gender equality in the workplace, with specific recognition of equal remuneration, family and caring responsibilities as issues central to the achievement of gender equality.

The passage of the legislation in the last week has been praised by commentators as “a significant improvement on its predecessor, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999’. Helen Conway, the director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, is quoted as saying “it represents a more contemporary approach to the issue of discrimination, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities”.

Kate Galloway (a senior law lecturer at James Cook University and PhD candidate at Melbourne University) in article (first appearing in Women's Agenda republished by SmartCompany) writes:

“I am undecided in my views on this change.

On the one hand, I have long been suspicious of the default position linking childcare with women's child-rearing responsibilities. Affordable and accessible quality childcare is widely recognised as essential to women's full civic participation, including in the paid work force.

What if we reframed the issue of childcare to focus on children, instead of women? Should we not be challenging the implicit assumption that women alone will take time off to care for infants and young children? And the assumption that women alone should arrange and pay for childcare? I think the new legislation heralds the potential to break this deep-seated assumption.”

Read the full article here

More about the legislation here

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