Get future ready: A guide to understanding changes to WGEA's legislation

On 30 March 2023, Parliament passed the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023.

Together with the remade Legislative Instruments, which took effect on 6 February 2023, these legislative reforms are a significant step forward to help accelerate employer action to close the gender pay gap. 

This website page provides detailed information on the legislative changes and links to further advice and tools for employers.

Watch a short explainer video below. 

Download a copy of this guide to share with your organisation below. 

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The key changes at a glance


Legislation changes

The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 made amendments to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (WGE Act).

The WGEA reform package also included changes to the associated Legislative Instruments (Workplace Gender Equality (Gender Equality Standards) Instrument 2023 and the Workplace Gender Equality (Matters in relation to Gender Equality Indicators) Instrument 2023).

The 2021 Review of the WGE Act made 10 recommendations to accelerate change for workplace gender equality. The reforms in this Bill, and the remade Legislative Instruments, deliver either in full, or in part, on six of the 10 recommendations.

Changes for employers

The reforms aim to accelerate workplace gender equality in Australia.

Key changes are included in the table below:

Key reporting changes

You can find more detail on each of these changes further down the page. Hit the link on the left-hand side to skip straight to this section.

Who will these reforms apply to?

The reforms apply to organisations already required to report annually to WGEA.

Under the Act, this includes private sector employers and Commonwealth public sector organisations with 100 or more employees.

How will WGEA work with employers to ensure they understand and implement these reforms?

We understand these reforms will change the way employers have previously reported to WGEA. That’s why the legislation allows appropriate lead time for employers before significant changes take effect.

WGEA will provide regular communication with employers about the changes and what they mean for them through:

  • direct email
  • updates to social media
  • webinars and information sessions
  • the provision of toolkits and resources
  • communication via peak bodies.

Why were these reforms introduced?

Overall, Australian employers have made progress against most of the six gender equality indicators since reporting to WGEA began in 2013-14.

But change isn’t happening fast enough.

In fact, in recent years, progress on workplace gender equality in Australia has stalled. WGEA data, collected in the annual Employer Census, indicates employers are not necessarily following up with action to address their gender pay gaps.

It’s more than 10 years since Federal Parliament first passed the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. These reforms will improve transparency, accountability and motivate action to accelerate progress on gender equality in workplaces.

Who was consulted on these reforms?

Feedback and ideas from employers, industry groups, academics, unions, advocacy groups and representatives from government contributed to shaping these landmark reforms.

The 2021 Review of the WGE Act and subsequent further consultation, including a series of virtual roundtables and a survey to employers, informed the drafting of these reforms.

All employers required to report to WGEA were invited to complete a survey about these changes. The government received 344 responses to the survey.

Additionally, external stakeholders were invited to contribute via virtual roundtables. These stakeholders included a variety of organisations and targeted representatives from the business and not-for-profit sectors, employee organisations, higher education providers, the women’s sector, users of WGEA’s data and other interested parties.

What are the key changes for employers?

Collection of more detailed information to fill knowledge gaps

Existing gaps in the WGEA dataset mean the true state of gender inequality across Australian workplaces is not being measured. The reforms work to close these gaps.

From 1 April 2024, employers will be required to report workforce data on:

  • employee age (year of birth)
  • primary workplace location
  • CEO, Head of Business and Casual Manager remuneration.

Mandatory reporting means data will be provided by all employers, rather than a smaller sample that may choose to provide this data voluntarily.

These more detailed insights will help WGEA better understand the factors influencing equality in Australian workplaces. Improving our understanding of this information will allow WGEA (and government more broadly) to drive targeted action for the benefit of Australian individuals, community organisations and businesses.

For more information on CEO remuneration, see CEO remuneration section below.

Reporting on sexual harassment, harassment on the ground of sex or discrimination

These reforms expand reporting requirements on prevention and response to sexual harassment, harassment on the ground of sex or discrimination in the workplace.

These questions were voluntary in 2023 but will be mandatory from 2024:

  • the provisions set out in any policy/strategy, including accountabilities for:
    • preventing and responding
    • the provision of training, its frequency, and content
    • the disclosure processes and management of disclosures
    • leadership statements or communication to demonstrate commitment to prevention and response
  • information about sexual harassment risk management
  • information about the prevalence data organisations currently collect
  • supports available for staff.

Mandatory sharing of Executive Summary and Industry Benchmark Report to governing body

The new legislation requires employers to provide their WGEA Executive Summary and Industry Benchmark Report to their Board.

The Executive Summary sets out the key results from your submission to the WGEA’s annual Gender Equality Reporting. It will include your gender pay gap, your gender composition and average remuneration per pay quartile and your organisation’s key findings under each gender equality indicator.

The Industry Benchmark Report compares your results to the results of other organisations in an ‘Industry Comparison Group’, which is generated by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) industry class as well as employee size.

WGEA makes these documents, confidentially, available at the end of reporting, generally in October / November.

The employer may provide the Executive Summary to the Board as soon as it is received, or together with the Industry Benchmark Report. If the employer chooses to provide the reports together, this must occur as soon as is reasonably practicable after receipt of the Industry Benchmark Report.

CEOs will be required to declare that they complied with the legislative requirement to provide reports to the governing body in the 2023 – 2024 Gender Equality Reporting.

Gender Equality Indicator policies for large organisations

From 2024, large organisations (500 or more employees) will be required to have policies or strategies for each of the six gender equality indicators.

Gender equality indicators

An organisation can be compliant with this requirement by having separate polices or strategies or by sharing an organisation-wide gender equality strategy or policy that includes aspects that address each of the six GEIs. Either way, the policy or strategy must explicitly address each GEI.

The requirement applies to each relevant employer with 500 or more employees. This means that if an organisation’s corporate structure includes multiple entities that have 500 or more employees in their own right, each entity will each need to have their own strategy/policy. These policies could be the same or adjusted for the specific circumstances of the individual entity.

Publishing employer gender pay gaps

Under the new legislation, WGEA will publish employer gender pay gaps, in addition to publishing the gender pay gap at a national, industry and occupational level.

Publishing gender pay gap data will draw on existing reporting data, so employers will not need to provide additional information to WGEA public sector organisations will be based on 1 January 2023 – 31 December 2023 reporting.

CEO remuneration

Reporting remuneration for CEOs, Heads of Business and Casual Managers is an important step forward in gaining a more accurate representation of the real gender pay gap.

It should be noted that CEO remuneration has previously been reported to WGEA. Many employers (more than 50%) provide CEO remuneration to WGEA voluntarily on an annual basis.

Will WGEA publish CEO remuneration?

As with all remuneration data collected by WGEA, individual CEO pay information will be confidential.

How will this impact employer gender gaps?

Nearly 80% of CEOs in Australia are men. Because CEOs are often the highest paid employees at an organisation, we expect the inclusion of CEO remuneration to have a meaningful impact on employer average gender pay gaps.

This is why WGEA will only publish the first set of average employer gender pay gaps, in addition to median and gender composition and average remuneration per pay quartile, once CEO remuneration is reported to WGEA.

Does this include remuneration for Partners?

At this stage CEO remuneration does not include remuneration for Partners in a partnership structure. This is because Partners are not classified as employees and therefore not captured in the WGEA dataset.

WGEA is working with the government to consider how to include Partners in its data collection (For more detail, see Recommendation 7.3b in the 2021 Review of the WGE Act).


What further reforms are proposed?

The legislative reforms will implement many of the 10 recommendations that were made in the 2021 Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

Most of the outstanding recommendations will be fulfilled through further legislative amendments but are still undergoing careful consideration and consultation. 

This includes:

  • collection of information about employees who identify as non-binary
  • collection of diversity information about employees
  • setting and achieving gender equality targets
  • additional changes to support Respect@Work.

Collection of non-binary data

Since 2021, employers have been able to voluntarily report to WGEA on the workplace data they collect on employees who identify as non-binary. One of the recommendations of the Review was that the Act should be amended to enable the mandatory collection of this data.

WGEA is prioritising work in consultation with specialist organisations, the community sector, unions, and industry groups to develop an approach to collecting this data that is safe and respectful to people who identify as non-binary.

Collection of diversity data

Recommendation 6 of the Review recommended investigating the best way to collect data on other aspects of identity including on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, cultural and linguistic diversity, and disability.

WGEA has commenced research alongside key stakeholders on the best approach to collecting this data. Since 2022, WGEA has included voluntary questions in its Employer Census related to diversity and inclusion and encourages employers to provide voluntary employee diversity data where they collect it.

Setting and achieving gender equality targets

The Review also called for the addition of a new gender equality standard, requiring large employers with 500 or more employees to commit to and achieve specific targets and to report their progress to WGEA. 

Development of these gender equality targets requires consultation with businesses and other stakeholders, to make sure they are genuine, measurable, achievable and include meaningful metrics shown to help progress gender equality. 

Sex-based harassment, harassment on the ground of sex or discrimination

This Bill supports implementation of recommendations made in the Respect@Work report. However, the report also made further findings that collecting data on the prevalence, nature and reporting of sexual harassment is essential to better understand the issue and that this data collection should be a priority.

In light of these findings, WGEA is undertaking further consultation with employers to better understand what data they currently collect relating to sexual harassment prevalence and outcomes – including NDAs or confidentiality clauses – and to understand how this data can be appropriately collected and reported at the workplace level.


Find out more about the Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap can be hard to understand and there's a lot of myths on social media. Find out what it is, how it is calculated and what causes the gender pay gap. 

WGEA's Gender Equality Scorecard details the state of workplace gender equality in Australia, including the gender pay gap by industry, the number of women in leadership and more. 

The latest She's Price(d)less report reveals the three main causes of the gender pay gap in Australia.