The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is urging the federal government to stop its support of businesses who are non-compliant with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

A recent NAWIC enquiry found that non-compliant organisations were still being awarded government procurement, contracts and financial assistance.  

This follows both the publication of the 2020-2021 WGEA Report card and the publication of a report issued by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) that examined the effectiveness of government reporting through WGEA and whether it was time for an upgrade.

The report card produced by WGEA each year is based on mandated reporting under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, requiring private companies with over 100 employees to report their financial and employee data which then forms the basis of the WGEA Report each year. The report card then publishes a list of entities who are not complying with the Act.

One of the aims of the legislation is to enable the federal government to decide to enact sanctions through the withholding of eligibility for government support or contracts to reaffirm federal government commitment to gender equality and deter further slippage in compliance rates.

However, the GIWL report stated that a 2021 audit of government tender records by national news outlets found that 31 non-compliant organisations were still awarded federal government contracts, suggesting that government sanctions through withholding eligibility were not being imposed.

NAWIC National Chair, Kristine Scheul, said, “Compliance with the Workplace Gender Equality Act does not require organisations to correct any identified gender inequalities, or reduce their gender pay gap. As such, failure to undertake positive actions is not a breach of reporting obligations and carries no penalty.

“Whilst it is encouraging to see that some organisations are seeking to address the issues of inequality within their own organisations, that number is still only sitting at around 50 per cent,” Ms Scheul said.

In 2021, NAWIC made submissions to the federal government into procurement practices for government-funded infrastructure, recommending that any organisations bidding on government tenders have a minimum number of women nominated for each project.

NAWIC’s enquiry suggests that more is needed to ensure that the women who are engaged on these projects are remunerated equally.

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