Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

When will global firms publish gender pay gap data?

New legislation requires the gender pay gap data of Australian businesses with 100 or more employees to be published. With UK-based law firms already doing so, Lawyers Weekly spoke to numerous global firms about when the market can expect to see their Australian gender pay gap data.

user iconLauren Croft 09 May 2023 Big Law
expand image

On 30 March 2023, the Australian Parliament passed the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023, which requires the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to publish employer gender pay gaps, for private sector employers, from early 2024.

This followed revisions to the Fair Work Act, which, as announced in January, gives employees new freedoms and workplace rights to share information about their pay and to ask their colleagues about their remuneration packages — with the inclusion of a pay secrecy clause in contracts set to be banned from June this year.

This is something Cassandra Banks, president of the Law Society of NSW, said would help combat the gender pay gap in the Australian legal profession — as it was revealed that the profession wasn’t moving fast enough in terms of closing that gap.


“Pay gaps may be inadvertently imported or inherited during recruitment when candidates reveal their present salaries, which for women are frequently lower than men,” Ms Banks told Lawyers Weekly in January.

“Pay secrecy clauses can mask unjustified discrepancies in pay between men and women.”

This was followed by the release of the 2022 National Profile of Solicitors report last week, revealing that four years after female lawyers first outnumbered their male counterparts, they now dominate in all areas of law.

Fifty-five per cent of solicitors across the country are female, with women making up the majority of every legal sector for the first time. Since 2011, eighty-six per cent of those entering the profession have been female, compared to 32 per cent of men.

However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) February 2023 figures, women earn, on average, 87¢ for every $1 earned by a man, with a national gender pay gap of 13.3 per cent.

As such, many BigLaw firms across the country have had gender equity and parity targets in place for some time, with many already publicly stating their gender pay gaps and gender equity targets.

A number of UK-headquartered “Magic Circle” firms have also recently released new annual pay gap reports, analysing their gender pay gaps in addition to data on ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation.

According to the Law Society of England and Wales, this mandatory reporting has driven positive change — with president Lubna Shuja urging all firms to publish their gender pay gap data last month.

“We must continue to press ahead with initiatives and action plans that will reduce the pay gap and create lasting change in our profession,” she said in a statement.

“Women’s barriers to progression are further compounded by traditional male-oriented promotion structures, a lack of development opportunities due to the unfair allocation of work and the lack of support around maternity leave, return to work, flexible working and shared parental leave.”

Firms that have released their gender pay gap information in the UK include Herbert Smith Freehills, Dentons, Ashurst, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, which all also have Australian presences.

In the lead-up to gender pay gap reporting for firms in Australia becoming mandatory, Lawyers Weekly asked those firms whether they were planning on publicly releasing that data sooner than early 2024.

None directly responded to this particular query from Lawyers Weekly but did provide the following commentary.

Herbert Smith Freehills published its UK gender pay gap data on its website, which, in 2022, showed a median employee pay gap of 39.1 per cent, which the firm said is primarily due to having “a high proportion of female employees in business services and in secretarial roles”. In Australia, firm employees can see the gender pay gap data via the firm’s WGEA report, which is published internally and shared with clients on request.

“As we state on our UK Gender Pay Report on our website, gender pay is different from equal pay. An equal-pay analysis considers whether men and women are paid equally for performing similar roles,” a spokesperson told Lawyers Weekly.

“We are confident that men and women are paid equally for doing equivalent jobs across our firm. We are also confident that men and women have an equal opportunity to earn a bonus.”

Dentons Australia did not provide comment in time for publication but instead pointed Lawyers Weekly to a recent press release that suggested that, since 2018, it has “seen the percentage of female partners rise from 12 per cent to 34 per cent in 2022 [and that] over the past year, we have also reduced our gender pay gap from 13.8 per cent to 7.9 per cent”.

Allen & Overy did not comment on its UK reporting but said the firm was currently reviewing the up-and-coming reforms in Australia.

“In Australia, we are reviewing the recent WGEA reforms, which we note includes the publishing of gender pay gaps, and recognise they are designed to accelerate change for workplace gender equality, including the gender pay gap,” a spokesperson said.

“Consistent with our global approach, we are committed to gender equality.”

In its Gender Pay Gap Report 2022, Clifford Chance noted that, based on hourly rates of pay for UK-based partners and employees, women’s pay is 16.6 per cent lower (mean gap) than that of men, with a median gap of 31.8 per cent. Australian figures have yet to be released.

“Clifford Chance embraces a culture of inclusion, and employees are valued and celebrated for their diversity. As leaders in pay gap transparency, we were the first global law firm to voluntarily expand pay gap reporting to LGBT communities, people with disabilities, as well as socioeconomic and ethnic minority groups. Clifford Chance is currently assessing our methods for gender pay gap reporting in Australia to ensure greater transparency,” a spokesperson told Lawyers Weekly.

“For example, the firm has recently expanded our Self-ID programs to Australia, which is a critical step towards having greater insights about our employees. The firm also regularly provides data to WGEA.”

Ashurst has also published gender pay gap data in the UK but has not yet in Australia.

“Ashurst is committed to promoting pay equity as part of our global [Inclusion, Diversity & Belonging] strategy. Ashurst’s IDB targets underpin this strategy, and we have been gathering and sharing diversity data to better understand our progress and hold ourselves to account for some time,” a spokesperson said.

“We welcome the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in Australia. Widespread, regulated disclosure will bring more focus to initiatives to improve diversity, especially in senior roles, and that can only be a good thing.”

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!