Greens member of the House of Reps Adam Bandt has introduced a bill which, if passed, would exempt from the sex discrimination law employers who make additional superannuation contributions solely for their female employees .
The bill, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Boosting Superannuation for Women) Bill 2014, amends the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 so that:
Discrimination by an employer against a female employee is not unlawful if the discrimination is on the grounds of the employee’s sex and involves the employer making an employer superannuation contribution that is more than otherwise required by law.
Source: explanatory memorandum to the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Boosting Superannuation for Women) Bill 2014
Currently section 14 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of their sex.
However, as Mr Bandt’s says in the associated material to the bill “women currently retire with far less superannuation than men.” The ABS says that in 2011/12 the average superannuation balance for men was $82,615 and $44,866 for women.
Mr Bandt says this can result from “lower average incomes, time out of paid work to provide care and the prevalence of women in casual and part-time employment.”
Additionally the most recent ABS statistics show the life expectancy for women is currently 4.4 years longer than that for men.
The bill will “allow employers to contribute to addressing the financial gender imbalance by enabling them to make higher superannuation contributions for women employees without having to seek an exemption under section 44 of the Act,” according to the explanatory memorandum.
The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) recently recommended, in the policy paper The future of Australia’s super: a new framework for a better system, that sex discrimination laws be amended to allow employees to pay more in super to female employees.
Update: It appears that this bill will go nowhere, as it has been removed from the House of Representatives notice paper. The Age reported on a letter from Attorney General George Brandis saying that as paying women more than men is not prohibited under current law “the government considers that your bill is unnecessary to achieve the outcome you propose and accordingly we do not propose to support your bill.”
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