Australia continues the global movement towards pay equity. The Australian state of Victoria, which includes the City of Melbourne, recently signed and enacted their first ever Gender Equality Bill.

In late February, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation requiring thousands of employers—including in the public sector, universities, and local governments—to prove that they are “actively pursuing” gender equality. Covered employers must develop and implement “Gender Equality Action Plans” every four years. These plans must include data on the gender pay gap within the reporting organizations, as well as strategies for achieving workplace gender equality. Much like the United Kingdom’s pay data reporting requirements, the Victorian Gender Equality Action Plans will be publicly accessible.

The law applies to organizations with more than 50 employees, and will help close the gender wage gap as well as improve gender equality at all levels of the workforce and reduce workplace sexual harassment, according to a press release by Delivering for All Victorians. The law is slated to take effect on March 31, 2021.

If employers do not comply with the mandated legislation, they will be ordered to do so by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, cites a post by SBS News. As for potential penalties for failing to comply, employers should expect them, along with negative PR, legal fees, damages and back pay.

For more information about Australia’s Gender Equality Bill including key reforms, visit the Victorian Government website, here.

Australian women currently make roughly 14 percent less than their male counterparts, according to a post by The Guardian. The new bill aims will help close the gap and prompt workplace equality.

This is not the first gender pay gap related news to come out of Australia, as the women’s soccer team announced a deal in late 2019 that will cover a four-year time span in which the women’s soccer team will be paid the same as the men’s soccer team. Their commitment to achieve gender equality echoes that of other professional sports teams across the globe.

Other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom are implementing similar legislation. Employers in the U.S. should recognize that it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. follows their lead. Already individual state and local jurisdictions are passing legislation to stop the gender wage gap from growing.

Employers looking to take a proactive approach should consider undergoing a pay equity audit. Based on our report with the Harvard Business Review’s Analytic Services, 90% of U.S. employers are planning, considering, or already performing internal pay equity audits.

A pay equity audit can identify pay differences between employees that cannot be explained due to job-related factors. This type of audit not only identifies problems, but also provides actionable solutions. It gives employers an opportunity to ensure fairness in pay and prevent employee issues. It allows the employer to minimize risk by identifying and remediating deficiencies, providing the employer with greater standing to defend against and win claims of discrimination.