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Sanctioning our super ‘special measure’

Women retire with far less superannuation than men. To help bridge the gap that can leave women so financially disadvantaged, ANZ is taking a step for its own employees.

The bank will pay an extra $500 a year into the super accounts of its permanent and fixed-term female staff in Australia. This is part of its campaign for women’s financial equality: the ANZ Women’s Initiative.

But it’s not just a matter of the bank making this type of decision on its own. ANZ reviewed legislative and regulatory issues around sex discrimination to make sure such a measure is lawful.

ANZ reviewed the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and state and territory anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation. In each case (except in New South Wales), the legislation allows “special measures” to be taken and states that such measures do not constitute unlawful discrimination.

In essence, ANZ considers that paying extra superannuation contributions to female employees constitutes a special measure under the relevant legislation. ANZ also consulted with the Australian Human Rights Commission, which advised that in its view ANZ’s initiative “addressed an inequality in retirement savings between male and female employees” and was “consistent with the objects of the Sex Discrimination Act”.

  

In NSW, the Anti-Discrimination Board granted ANZ a 10-year exemption for the extra super contribution under section 126 of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. The President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, advised ANZ that he considered that the proposed scheme “would improve gender equality in ANZ’s workforce” and he commended ANZ for the initiative.

ANZ is not alone in providing additional superannuation to female employees, with actuarial firm Rice Warner also providing such a benefit to its female employees. The bank is hopeful other companies will join in and explore making extra contributions to their female staff.