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Australian women still no closer in the fight for equal pay: time for action

02 September 2012 By ACTU

Legislative change must be considered to stop the widening gender pay gap, after it blew out further to 17.5% in the last 12 months, say unions.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Australian women now had to effectively fit an extra 64 work days into every financial year to be able to earn the same as their male colleagues.

"Corporate Australia has been given plenty of opportunity to create an even playing field between men and women, yet here we are on another Equal Pay Day lamenting the fact that it is taking longer and longer for women to earn the same as men," Ms Kearney said.

"Equal Pay Day, held each year on the day women catch up to men's annual earnings as of 30 June, shouldn't even exist, yet the situation is getting worse, not better. It's time we had some affirmative action from the Government on making sure women have the same opportunity to take home the same level of wages as men.

"This year took women 64 days to catch up to men's earnings from last financial year, while the previous two years took 63. That's a blight on corporate Australia and it is time they were made to change their ways.

"We will talk to the Government about taking action through its current review of the Fair Work Act to amend the right to request flexible working arrangements so that employers are obliged to seriously consider a request for women who are also carers at home.

"Right now, employers can just pay lip service to such a request, without having to explain their refusal and most women have no appeal rights. Instead, many women often leave their full time secure jobs after having children so that they can get 'flexible' hours via casual work or a part-time job, in lieu of the pay and career paths their previous role offered.

"Another thing the Government could look at is introducing quotas, in which companies have to take reasonable steps to ensure an equal number of women sit in leadership roles as men. We also encourage the Government to continue to pursue its important reforms to equal opportunity legislation and we call on employer groups to be proactive in their support for these reforms."

Ms Kearney said reasons for the pay gap included that women were still the primary caregiver in the majority of families.

"By the time they return to work after taking time out of the workforce, many have skipped a pay increase or two and their male colleagues have climbed the promotion ladder ahead of them," she said. "Women don't automatically start playing catch up when they get back to work and are often overlooked for leadership positions if they ask for flexible hours.

"But focusing on excuses will not help solve the problem and it is time action was taken."

Media contact:

Rebecca Tucker: ph (03) 9664 7359 or 0408 031 269; email

Contact Details
Name: Linda White, ASU Assistant National Secretary
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