Women workers are entitled to fair treatment and equal pay in the workplace. All states and territories have legislation in relation to equal opportunities in the workforce. Federal and state discrimination legislation also exists to provide women workers with an avenue for assistance when they are discriminated against either directly or indirectly.
The original Affirmative Action Act 1986 required certain employers to promote equal opportunity for women in employment and to establish the office of the Director of Affirmative Action.
This Act was initially introduced by the federal government as a means of requiring private organisations and businesses with over 100 employees to implement affirmative action programs, to encourage more women to take on roles within the management structure. The Act was amended in 1999 and again in 2012.
It is now known as the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and aims to:
- Promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace.
- Support employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce, in recognition of the disadvantaged position of women in relation to employment matters.
- Promote, amongst employers, the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters (including in relation to family and caring responsibilities).
- Foster workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning gender equality in employment and in the workplace.
- Improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of gender equality in employment and in the workplace.
Wages and conditions
The AEU/SSTUWA has a proud history of women unionists campaigning for and winning major rights for women working in public education. Some of these improvements in working conditions for women in education are still not afforded to women in other forms of employment.
- Equal pay for women teachers.
- Removal of bar on married women teaching.
- Maternity leave – paid and unpaid.
- Permanent part-time employment.
- Right to return to part-time employment following maternity leave.
- Carer’s leave.
- Parental leave.
- Rights to superannuation for women.
- Departmental equal opportunity and affirmative action for women policies.
- Sexual harassment contact officers.
- Paid family and domestic violence leave.
The wages and conditions of women workers are contained in legally enforceable documents called awards or enterprise agreements.
These are determined through the enterprise bargaining process. This process is usually commenced by the SSTUWA through the development of a document called a log of claims. The document is served on the employer, followed by a negotiating period.
Arbitration by the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC) may be necessary if the parties are unable to reach agreement.
The end result is the certification of the award or agreement in the WAIRC. Once the document is certified, it becomes legally enforceable.
These documents regulate matters such as:
- The way in which you work.
- The hours you work.
- Your leave entitlements.
- The allowances available.
Other conditions may be contained in departmental policy/guidelines, administrative guidelines, government acts and regulations.
Understanding your rights
It is important to be familiar with what your current entitlements are, so that you and your colleagues can ensure you receive them.
Any breach of these entitlements can be addressed through a range of procedures including grievances.
It is important to be aware of the appropriate process (or who to contact) when a breach occurs. The contact person may be your union rep, OSH rep or the SSTUWA office.
What can I do?
- Have access to copies of the latest awards/agreements and ensure other women know how to access them.
- Read the SSTUWA eNews and talk with members at your branch/worksite to ensure they are aware of any relevant information.
- Check for information.
- Attend training/information sessions to learn about your entitlements and encourage other members to attend.
- Talk to your union rep if you have a query. No question is too simple!
- If additional information is needed contact the SSTUWA Member Assist Team.
Member Assist is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday through Friday, except public holidays. During school holidays, Member Assist is open from 10am to 2pm.