Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill Introduced

On 26 July 2017 the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill (Bill) was introduced into Parliament by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse.

If passed, the Bill will repeal and replace the Equal Pay Act 1972 as well as the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 and will also amend the Employment Relations Act 2000.

The Bill’s introduction follows on from the landmark $2 billion pay equity settlement which resulted from the Court of Appeal’s consideration of the Equal Pay Act 1972 in TerraNova v Service and Food Workers Union. The settlement saw 55,000 aged care workers receive a substantial increase in pay. The new pay structure was implemented on 1 July 2017 (you can read more about the settlement here).

What you need to know:
Minister Woodhouse says that the Bill “provides a practical and fair process for employees to follow if they feel they are not being paid what their job is worth.”

The purpose of the Bill, according to its explanatory note, is to “eliminate and prevent discrimination, on the basis of sex, in the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment, and in doing so, promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds.”

The Bill:

  • prohibits employers from discriminating, on the basis of sex, in remuneration and other terms and conditions;
  • enables employees to make claims relating to sex discrimination in employment;
  • distinguishes between three types of claims (equal pay, unlawful discrimination on matters other than remuneration, and pay equity);
  • sets out the processes for resolving the different types of claims; and
  • re-enacts, in an up-to-date and accessible form, the relevant provisions of the Equal Pay Act 1972.

Minister Woodhouse has also said that the Bill would make it easier for employees to file pay equity claims directly with their employer, rather than having to go through the Courts.

Under the Bill, a pay equity claim must have merit, on the basis that it “relates to work predominantly performed by women and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the work has been historically undervalued and continues to be undervalued.” If a claim has merit, the parties must enter into a bargaining process to resolve it.

Where to from here:
The Bill has passed its first reading and is currently at Select Committee stage. The Bill will be particularly relevant for employers in workforces where employees are traditionally female dominated and where the average rate of pay is low, such as the early child care sector.

If you would like to discuss what this could mean for your workplace, or if you are an employee who would like to discuss raising a pay equity claim, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  

Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law and health and safety topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

August 2017