Gender Equality Act 2020
Fourth Action Plan actions
- Primary prevention is key
- Respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment
- 15 Strengthen the capacity of all sectors to address sexual harassment to ensure women are safe at work, while studying, in public and online.
What are we doing?
The Victorian Government has introduced the Gender Equality Act 2020 (Act), which was a founding reform of Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy (www.vic.gov.au/safe-and-strong-victorian-gender-equality). After coming into effect on 31 March 2021, the Act requires the Victorian public sector, local government, TAFEs and universities to provide data against a range of workplace gender equality indicators, develop and implement Gender Equality Action Plans every four years, and publicly report on progress. Defined entities (organisation with obligations under the Act) must also apply a gender lens when developing or reviewing policies, programs and services that have a direct and significant impact on the public, and report on these gender impact assessments every two years in progress reports.
What have we achieved so far?
- The Act passed through Parliament on 20 February 2020 and received Royal Assent on 25 February 2020. It came into effect on 31 March 2021.
- Dr Niki Vincent was appointed Victoria’s inaugural Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner under the Act.
- The Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector was established in October 2020.
- Implementation of the Act has commenced, with the first round of workplace gender audit data due to be submitted in December 2021.
- Since the commencement of the Act in March 2021, the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector has made significant progress. Through educational approaches, the provision of guidance materials and direct assistance, the Commission has supported approximately 300 defined entities under the Act to fulfil their obligations. Core obligations include undertaking a workplace gender audit, developing a Gender Equality Action Plan and undertaking gender impact assessments. Significant engagement activities with defined entities are ongoing. A Panel of Providers was also established to provide sector-level support to entities, and a Reporting Platform is in the final stages of development. In 2021, the Commissioner’s dispute resolution and research functions have also been established.
- The impact of the Act goes beyond the workplace. Significant efforts have been aimed at educating defined entities regarding how to conduct gender impact assessments and how they contribute to improved gender equality in the community. This public-facing focus of the Act is designed to raise awareness and drive gender equality across the broader Victorian community. The Commissioner’s high-profile awareness-raising and participation in public debate further serve to address gender inequality, combat harmful gender stereotypes and tackle the underlying drivers of violence against women.
What is next?
- Due to the exceptional circumstance of COVID-19, the Commissioner has used her powers to extend obligation deadlines in 2021. As a result, the first round of workplace gender audit data is due to the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner by 1 December 2021.
- Gender Equality Action Plans which include strategies and measures are due by 31 March 2022.
What difference will we make?
- The Act seeks to eliminate the gender pay gap in the Victorian public sector, as well as universities and councils, by addressing its key drivers, such as access to and uptake of flexible work arrangements, gendered occupational and industrial segregation, women’s representation in leadership positions and increased participation in the workforce.
- Agencies that fall within scope of the Act will have a better understanding of the drivers of workplace gender inequality, which are linked to drivers of gendered violence, and are required to implement strategies and measures to improve gender equality in the workplace.
- Undertaking gender impact assessments will result in better policies, programs and service delivery that more effectively meet community needs, support better outcomes for people of all genders, and are more cost-effective in the long-term. This is an ongoing obligation that must be undertaken across all defined entities when developing or reviewing program, policy or service or any that are up for review.
- There are economic benefits associated with increased women’s workforce participation, including greater productivity and reduced government spending on social services and concessions.
- By addressing workplace gender inequality, the Act will lead to improved social outcomes, particularly in terms of preventing violence against women and girls, social inclusion and health and wellbeing.