The Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic) was assented to on 25 February 2020. The Act was originally released as a draft Bill by the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet on 21 August 2018 for public consultation. On 26 November 2019, the Bill was introduced to the Victorian Legislative Assembly by the Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams. The Bill passed both houses of Parliament, with some amendments, on 20 February 2020. The Act is yet to commence.
The Act aims to push proactive progress towards gender equality within the public sector. In addressing and working towards gender equality, the Victorian government seeks to improve a number of social and economic issues. The Act will require organisations to take positive action towards achieving workplace gender equality, and to promote gender equality in their policies, programs, and services. The Act will also establish the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner (“the Commissioner”).
The Act sets out a series of gender equality principles, which all Victorian public sector entities are to recognise and reflect in their organisations. These principles acknowledge that gender equality is a human right, and is something to benefit everyone regardless of gender.
The Act will apply to select organisations that have a minimum of 50 employees, and which are also:
These organisations are known as defined entities, under section 5 of the Act. By setting a minimum of 50 employees, the Act aims to strike a balance between encouraging organisational change, and ensuring an achievable reporting burden for smaller companies. It is estimated that around 300 organisations will fall under this definition of defined entities. Additionally, regulations made under the Act will also have the power to prescribe or exempt an organisation at any time.
Under Part 2 of the Act, defined entities have a general duty to consider and promote gender equality across their programs, policies, and services. Part of this duty requires the organisations to demonstrate a consideration of the varied interests of and impacts to different genders.
In maintaining and upholding their general duty, defined entities must undertake gender impact assessments (“GIAs”) when developing and reviewing their programs, policies, and services, which have a direct and significant impact on the public. These GIAs must consider the following, in regards to these programs, policies, and services:
The Act also requires organisations to develop, submit, and publish a Gender Equality Action Plan (“GEAP”) every four years. GEAPs are to include the workplace gender audit results, and strategies for improving gender equality in the workplace. In preparing the GEAP, a defined entity must also take into account the gender equality principles, and consult with relevant stakeholders, such as its governing body, employees and employee representatives.
The workplace gender audit was introduced to be a tool for entities to determine the status of gender equality within their organisation. The audit must take into consideration workplace gender equality indicators, gender equality targets, and other disadvantages or discrimination that a person may experience in addition to gender inequality. The indicators to be taken into account include:
In addition to the GEAP, organisations are also required to publish a progress report two years after submitting their GEAP. The progress reports must include information regarding:
The Act also establish the role of the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner, whose purpose is to:
The Commissioner also has the power to address breaches, which include failures of entities in developing and lodging a GEAP, reporting on indicators and applicable targets or quotas, and making reasonable and material progress against indicators or prescribed targets and quotas.
In addressing the breaches, the Commissioner has the power to:
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Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic) available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service
Gender Equality Bill 2019 (Vic) and supporting documents available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service
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