Kelly O’Dwyer and her investment banker husband Jon Mant with their daughter Olivia. Picture: Supplied
Kelly O’Dwyer and her investment banker husband Jon Mant with their daughter Olivia. Picture: Supplied

Australia looks to gender pay gap revolution

AUSTRALIA'S new minister for women has indicated she's open to more reforms to reduce Australia's gender pay gap after Iceland became the first country in the world to penalise companies that pay men more than women.

Meanwhile, Telstra and global IT business ThoughtWorks - employers who have been praised for their gender equality practices in Australia - have called on more companies to lift their game so further government intervention won't be unnecessary.

Iceland's move to shrink its 5.7 per cent pay gap into effect on January 1, sparking a wave of discussion on equal pay around the world.

Under the groundbreaking policy, companies with more than 25 staff will be required to report their equal pay policies to government to obtain a certification.

Any companies that fail to show equal pay will face fines.

Kelly O'Dwyer, who took over from Michaelia Cash as Minister for Women in the December cabinet reshuffle, told News Corp the Australian government had already taken steps to address the nation's gender pay gap.

But she said government would continue to look at whether further reforms were required.

It's understood government officials will look closely at Iceland's legislation as part of their ongoing work to reduce Australia's 15.3 per cent pay gap.

"Women play a critical role in the workforce," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"Forming half the population, I think it is fair to expect that women are paid the same as their male counterparts if they are doing the same work."

Mandatory reporting for employers with 100 staff or more on the gender composition of their workforce, equal pay between women and men, and conditions such as flexible working arrangements has already been introduced by the federal government.

Employers with 500 or more staff must also have a formal policy or strategy in place to encourage gender equality.

Telstra's group executive of HR Alex Badenoch said Iceland's legislation was "worth watching" but companies should be more proactive on gender equality first.

"As an Australian company, Telstra, and all other Australian companies should first focus on what we can do ourselves," she said.

"There's a lot we can do to changes things and we're responsible for doing that and I'm not sure we should need government legislation to do it but ultimately if that's where we get to, that's something we could deal with."

The telecommunications giant has mandated a 50-50 quota for interview shortlists when hiring, and also has a flexible work policy for all roles and a certain number of positions set aside for women returning to work.

ThoughtWorks managing director in the Asia Pacific Angela Ferguson said she would welcome Australian employers having greater accountability to address the pay gap.

Ms Ferguson said Iceland's smaller population would make the policy easier to implement there but Australia could monitor how it worked.

"I'm really excited to see what we can learn and what we can borrow from what their doing," she said.

ThoughtWorks has 50-50 gender hiring quotas, flexible work policies, and continues to pay superannuation for the first six months of unpaid parental leave.