The Andrews government has passed its Gender Equality Bill, which it is calling a “landmark step in breaking down discrimination and gender barriers in the workplace”.
Speaking in the wake of the passage of the bill, Victorian Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams said the legislation was “an Australian first” and represented a once in a generation opportunity to influence policy, social norms, cultural expectations and attitudes across Victoria.
“This bill is a key mechanism in improving the lives of women and all Victorians, ensuring employers of almost 380,000 Victorians in our public sector, councils and universities, take real action to progress gender equality,” she said.
“This bill ensures that Victoria will continue to lead the country when it comes to improving gender equality – so that people of all genders are able to enjoy equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and outcomes.”
The legislation applies to public sector workplaces and will help close the gender pay gap, improve gender equality at all levels of the workforce and reduce workplace sexual harassment.
The bill requires public sector organisations, universities and local councils to develop and implement Gender Equality Action Plans every four years, the state government said in a statement – including data on the current state of gender equality in the organisation and strategies for achieving workplace gender equality.
Progress will be reported on every two years, with results made public for accountability and transparency. Moreover, a Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner will be established to provide independent oversight of the reforms – educating, monitoring progress and ensuring compliance.
“Organisations will also need to undertake gender impact assessments, ensuring that policies, programs and services consider the different needs of Victorians of all genders,” the statement continued.
“While the bill provides the commissioner with enforcement powers, the initial approach will be educational, focusing on supporting organisations to achieve their gender equality goals.”