Construction and Infrastructure update: Victorian Government's new policy set to improve equality in the construction industry

Dec 14, 2021

Women have consistently comprised only 2% of field-based workers in the Australian construction sector over the past 30 years. To help address the gender imbalance in the construction industry, the Victorian Government announced a new Building Equality Policy (BEP) last week which is set to improve gender equality by creating training and employment opportunities for women.

The BEP is comprised of three actions that seek to address the structural and cultural bias women face in the construction industry.

Action 1: Project gender equality targets

Suppliers on projects subject to the BEP must meet the following minimum onsite gender equality targets:

  • trade covered labour: women are required to perform at least 3% of the contract works’ total estimated labour hours for each trade position;
  • non-trade Construction Award covered labour: women are required to perform at least 7% of the contract works’ total estimated labour hours for each non-trade Construction Award covered labour position; and
  • management/supervisory and specialist labour (staff): women are required to perform at least 35% of the contract works’ total estimated labour hours for each staff position.

Suppliers are required to provide women with equal access to the diverse roles available onsite. Suppliers are encouraged to set aspirational targets that exceed the minimum requirements in the BEP.

Action 2: Require suppliers to engage women apprentices or trainees to perform building and construction work

Suppliers are required to engage women who are registered apprentices or trainees to perform building and construction work for at least 4% of the contract works’ total estimated labour hours for apprentices and trainees.

Action 3: Require Gender Equality Action Plans

When submitting an expression of interest or tender for government-funded construction work, suppliers are required to provide:

  • a project-specific Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP); and
  • an organisation-wide GEAP.

The GEAP will form part of the procurement contract if the tenderer is successful.

Application of the BEP

The BEP applies to:

  • All entities defined as either a public body or a department under Section 3 of the Financial Management Act 1994.
  • All publicly funded construction projects valued at $20 million or more. The financial thresholds refer to the total budget allocated over the life of the project excluding GST and not the value of individual contracts.
  • Construction procurement activities that meet the financial threshold and commence from 1 January 2022. It will not apply retrospectively to projects that have already been contracted, or invitations to supply that have been issued before 1 January 2022.

Principal contractors have a contractual obligation to ensure participants in their supply chains are contributing to the overall targets across the project, which will have consequential flow on effects to downstream subcontractors.

Transitional compliance period

Over the 2022 and 2023 calendar years, the BEP will be subject to a transitional compliance period on all applicable government procured projects.

From 1 January 2024, contract provisions will provide remedies for non-compliance, which is likely to have a flow on effect to the drafting of downstream subcontracts.

Benefits to increasing participation of women in the construction industry

The benefits of greater participation of women in a male-dominated construction industry include:

  • drawing from a wider talent pool, broadening perspectives and ideas, stimulating innovation, improved staff retention, a better reflection of the consumer base, improved reputation and greater profitability;
  • addressing the medium to longer-term skills gap that the construction industry is facing based on current workforce settings; and
  • addressing occupational segregation, which has been relatively static over the last two decades, with the potential to narrow the gender pay gap and strengthen the economic security for women and their families.

Take home points

The Victorian Government’s BEP aims to benefit the construction industry as a whole by creating training and employment opportunity for women in the construction industry.

From 1 January 2022, contractors and subcontractors in the construction industry who intend to tender for or work on projects subject to the BEP will need to ensure that they meet the BEP’s action items, including having a GEAP.

More information

For information on the BEP or advice, please contact Darren Cain, Principal Lawyer, on (03) 8600 8835 or dcain@kcllaw.com.au, or Dominic Brown, Senior Associate, on (03) 8600 8851 or djbrown@kcllaw.com.au.

Author

This Construction and Infrastructure update was authored by Dominic Brown, Senior Associate.

Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

BACK