International Women’s Day: Women at Work in 2017

Michael Starkey, Associate 

With International Women’s Day falling this week, PCS thought it an opportune time to take a look at some of the issues impacting upon women in Australian workplaces in 2017:

  • the gender pay gap;
  • domestic and family violence leave; and
  • sexual harassment.

While domestic and family violence and sexual harassment are issues that also affect men, they are topics being addressed in the media with a particular focus on women.

The gender pay gap

Newly published research by Accenture has suggested that women in developed markets are still over 60 years from closing the gender pay gap, with this unlikely to occur until around 2080. Its survey of 28,000 women and women in 29 countries found that, on average, a woman earns US$100 to every US$140 earned by a man.

In spite of these statistics, Accenture found that initiatives to close the gender pay gap could have a significant impact by 2030, if implemented now.

Socially responsible employers should think about how they can contribute by promoting:

  • “digital fluency: the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work;
  • career strategy: the need for women to aim high, make informed choices and manage their careers proactively; and
  • tech immersion: the opportunity for women to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men.”

Click here to access Accenture’s full report.

Domestic and family violence leave

In 2016, Queensland became the first State to implement paid domestic and family violence leave for its workers in the public sector. This has been followed by a push by several State premiers for the provision of such leave in the National Employment Standards.

Employers need not wait until domestic and family violence leave is legislated to take action and become part of the movement to meaningfully address the cultural issue that is domestic and family violence. A number of organisations, particularly in the not-for-profit sector, have already implemented paid domestic and family violence leave through enterprise agreements. Employers who feel unable to take a step as significant as this may consider providing similar leave benefits on a discretionary basis in support of individual employees.

Sexual harassment

Despite legislation making sexual harassment unlawful being in place at a Federal level since 1984, 2016 research conducted by the Young Workers Centre indicates that sexual harassment, remains a prevalent issue in Australian workplaces.

The Young Workers Centre’s Health and Safety Snapshot reported, based on interviews and surveys conducted with over 1,000 Australian workers aged between 15 and 24, that sexual harassment in the workplace is “commonplace, unaddressed and preventable”. The Snapshot found that young people, particularly young women, experience sexual harassment from their bosses, co-workers and customers, and that some believed that sexual harassment was “normalised” or treated by their employer as a “non-issue”.

Evidently, employers must do more to address sexual harassment in their workplaces. This not only requires that employers have effective policies in place, but that employees are educated and trained in these policies, and that, more broadly, a culture of civility and respect is promoted from the top down.

Click here to access the Young Workers Centre’s full report.