Detailed guidance for women’s equality and safety

Find model approaches and further information in relation to women’s equality and safety.


Women’s equality and safety is one of seven social procurement objectives included in the Social Procurement Framework.

Corresponding social outcomes

The Social Procurement Framework identifies two social outcomes corresponding to this social procurement objective:

  • Adoption of family violence leave by Victorian Government suppliers
  • Gender equality within Victorian Government suppliers.

These outcomes are addressed separately below.

Individual procurement activity requirements for government buyers (Table 3 of the Social Procurement Framework) recommends the following actions:

For individual procurement activities valued at or above $1 million (regional) or $3 million (metro or State-wide) up to $20 million (exclusive of GST), government buyers ask suppliers:

  • whether they offer family violence leave in weighted framework criteria
  • to demonstrate gender equitable employment practices in weighted framework criteria.

For individual procurement activities valued at or above $20 million (exclusive of GST), government buyers ask suppliers:

  • whether they offer family violence leave in weighted framework criteria
  • to include performance standards or industry appropriate targets for labour hours performed by women.

Adoption of family violence leave by Victorian Government suppliers

Benefits for Victorians

Family violence can affect the productivity and wellbeing of people within the workplace. For example, it can result in higher levels of absenteeism and staff turnover and lower levels of productivity. Statistics show that one in six women is affected by family violence and it costs the Australian economy an estimated $13.6 billion per year.

Workplaces that have robust family violence leave policies can play a significant role in raising awareness of family violence, reducing the stigma for victims of family violence, and promoting a workplace culture that is equitable, respectful and supportive. A family violence leave policy can mean the difference between a person staying in an abusive relationship or taking action to address the situation.

Further information for government buyers

The information below is provided by the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality (Department of Health and Human Services) to help government buyers understand the concept of family violence leave and what to expect from suppliers in relation to this outcome.

Family violence leave policy

‘Family Violence’ is defined in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic).

Family violence includes behaviour by a person towards a family member that is:

  • physically or sexually abusive
  • emotionally or psychologically abusive
  • economically abusive
  • threatening or coercive
  • in any other way controls of dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of themselves or another family member.

Family violence leave is specific leave for employees experiencing or supporting someone who is experiencing family violence. Family violence leave can be paid or unpaid and is accessed by an employee who needs to do something due to the impact of family violence that is impractical to do outside of the ordinary hours of work.

Family violence leave policies exist in public and private sector organisations, including the current Victorian Government Victorian Public Service enterprise agreement. Large private sector organisations have family violence leave policies, with some including these provisions in enterprise agreements.

In March 2018, the Fair Work Commission provisionally ruled to include a model term for leave to deal with family and domestic violence in all modern awards. Where they exist, family violence leave provisions are typically embedded within broader family violence support policies, including principles and guidelines for managers to follow when they become aware of an employee experiencing family violence. These include sections regarding confidentiality, non-discrimination, and access to support services.

Example – Family violence leave policy, Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has introduced a package of initiatives designed to protect and support Australian employees affected by family and domestic violence. Within the family violence workplace policy, employees are entitled to 10 paid days of leave to allow for court appearances, relocation, counselling and seeking legal assistance. The policy also includes the provision of safety plans to protect at risk employees at work including security, new telephone numbers, screening or blocking calls and email protection. Short term financial assistance and emergency accommodation can also be provided as required to employees who need immediate help.

Key components of a family violence policy

The North West Metropolitan Region Primary Care Partnerships have produced a policy template for Workplace Family Violence. This document will assist suppliers to develop their own workplace family violence leave policy and contains a comprehensive list of support organisations for referral purposes.

Drawing on existing family violence leave policies and the Fair Work Commission’s 2017 Background Paper on family violence leave, a family violence leave policy should include:

  • definitions
  • purpose and scope
  • clearly defined eligibility criteria
  • leave entitlements and conditions that provide:
    • dedicated paid or unpaid leave for employees experiencing family violence
    • access to flexible working arrangements where appropriate.
  • evidence requirements
  • privacy and protection against adverse action requirements that:
    • maintain confidentiality of employee details and disclosures of family violence
    • protect against adverse action or discrimination on the basis of disclosure / experience of family violence
  • Other types of assistance, which could include referral to appropriate family violence support services.

Gender equality within Victorian Government suppliers

Benefits for Victorians

Women’s full and equitable participation in political, economic and public life signals the value we place on women’s contributions. Gender equality in leadership positions is proven to increase business performance and deliver diversity of thought leading to more innovative solutions.

The Victorian Government recognises that suppliers will be at different points on the continuum towards achieving gender equality and that this process involves long-term commitment and behaviour change.

Model approach for government buyers

The model approach to delivering this outcome involves two components:

  • require suppliers to complete a gender equitable business practices self-assessment checklist that covers key components such as:
    • gender equality strategy
    • gender-inclusive culture with relevant supportive elements such as flexible work options
    • gender equality in leadership and management
    • gender composition of teams
    • equal remuneration
    • gender equality audits.
  • require suppliers to complete a current workforce profile and/or project contract staff profile table.

Where appropriate, government buyers may require suppliers to provide:

  • documentary evidence in support of their self-assessment and/or profiles
  • a written declaration in relation to their responses to the self-assessment checklist and/or profiles.

The model approach to delivering this outcome involves two components, requiring suppliers to:

  • commit to targets for employment and/or training outcomes for Womens' Equality and Safety (note: the government buyer may select one or more cohorts or include all cohorts)
  • explain how they will support Womens' Equality and safety to allow them to achieve and maintain employment and training outcomes.

Response schedules

The response schedules related to Womens' Equality and Safety are available in the Social procurement toolkit.

Further information for government buyers

The information below is provided by the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality to help government buyers understand the concept of gender equality and considerations relevant to evaluating responses to invitations to supply.

Supplier gender equality strategy

There is a range of existing gender equality strategies in public and private sector workplaces. While these are diverse, key components could include:

  • gender equality policies and procedures across the organisation’s activities with a key focus on:
    • gender-inclusive culture including through equal remuneration, flexible workplace policies and an embedded family violence policy
    • gender equality in leadership at senior levels of the organisation
    • gender composition of teams
    • equal remuneration.
  • gender equality indicators and outcomes linked to business strategy and outcomes
  • collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data for measurement and reporting, including the provision of, for example:
    • Sex-disaggregated data (including Workplace Gender Equality Agency data, where relevant, on labour hours, gender pay gap, composition of the workforce, leadership and any governing bodies).

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency provides information to support and educate organisations to increase their level of gender equality in a strategic, structured and sustainable way. Workplace Gender Equality Agency has developed a Gender Strategy Toolkit to provide guidance for those organisations aiming to adopt best practice or become Workplace Gender Equality Agency Employer of Choice for Gender Equality. The toolkit assists both those organisations starting on the gender equality journey, as well as those that have already taken action to progress sooner and more effectively.

Example – RMIT Gender Equality Action Plan 2016-2020

The Action Plan consists of three key focus areas to embed RMIT’s commitment to gender equality, particularly around the representation of women in senior academic and executive roles. Each of the three areas consists of actions, targets, timelines and responsible enablers (e.g. executive champions). Leadership and Governance recognises and actively involves women at all levels of governance, management and leadership, including annual gender equality reporting and targets for executive and senior and roles. Employment Conditions of women are respected and protected to enable their full participation in the workforce, including addressing the gender pay gap and ensuring gender equality is included in succession planning. Women’s Career Advancement is supported to ensure talent is developed and retained, including an increase in women’s application and success rates in academic and professional promotion.

Flexible work

One of the barriers to increased workforce participation is access to flexible work arrangements. The Victorian Government has committed to making flexible roles common practice across the Victorian Public Service, recognising the vast body of evidence which suggests that offering men and women flexible work options will lead to improved workplace gender equality.

Australian definitions of flexible work include arrangements which provide flexibility in hours of work, patterns of work and locations of work. This includes part-time work, purchased leave, unplanned leave, parental leave beyond statutory requirements, flexitime, compressed working weeks/hours, time in lieu, job sharing, flexible career management and working from home/telecommuting.

Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy links access to flexible work arrangements as a contributor to the gender gap in workforce participation and engaged Nous group to model the return on investing in flexible work.

The public report prepared by Nous group titled Flexible work, good for business? Modelling the bottom line impact of flexible work for the Office of Prevention and Women’s Equality found that flexible work supports gender equality through enabling women’s participation in the workforce and supporting women’s success in the workplace. The report also found flow on effects to employers, which included:

  • improved staff productivity;
  • enhanced ability to attract quality employees
  • enhanced ability to retain experienced staff
  • improved employee health
  • safety and wellbeing
  • reduced absenteeism
  • greater workforce diversity
  • enhanced customer service and greater innovation capacity.


The Victorian Government is committed to changing leadership norms at the highest levels, recognising that women’s full and equitable participation in political, economic and public life signals the value we place on women’s contributions, and is therefore critical to achieving gender equality.

Women are underrepresented in leadership and management positions in Australian workplaces. Research undertaken by the Centre for Ethical Leadership demonstrates that targets and quotas are a valuable means to increase gender equality and successful gender equality initiatives are those that apply challenging targets, backed by effective sanctions and incentives.

Workplaces that set voluntary targets can self-regulate their gender equality performance and set realistic goals that are tailored to their unique circumstances. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has a target setting calculator to help organisations set and meet gender diversity targets, which is available online at

Performance standards and industry-appropriate targets may also be set in relation to individual procurement activities, such as in relation to labour hours to be performed by women. Performance standards and targets may, for example, relate to ‘women in non-traditional trades or professions’, which is defined in the Social Procurement Framework to mean

Women working in technical or operational fields such as mining, construction, or utilities, with trade or higher education qualities in the areas of building and construction, architecture, engineering, surveying, business, economics, and law.

Gender auditing

A key component of developing a successful gender equality strategy involves undertaking a gender audit. Gender auditing can identify structural and social barriers to gender equality in the workplace and provide an accurate picture of the current state of gender equality within an organisation. The audit process can provide objective, measurable evidence of baseline performance and progress over time with respect to equal pay, recruitment and promotion, leadership development and mentoring, flexible working and inclusive culture.

Audits can be used to identify and disrupt harmful workplace cultures, encourage participative forms of leadership and shift the structures and systems that produce inequality. This includes countering unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion, setting targets for women’s representation, encouraging male advocacy in the workplace, and supporting men out of the paid workforce with flexible working conditions and parental leave.

Women’s Health West has developed a useful guide for how to undertake a gender audit in your organisation, titled ‘Gender audit guidelines for the government, community and health sectors’.

Adapting to a gender equitable framework

As noted above, suppliers will be at different points on the continuum towards achieving gender equality and this process involves long-term commitment and behaviour change.

There are many resources available to guide and support suppliers on the path toward embedding gender equitable policy into workplace procedures and practice. For example, suppliers can consider whether they have:

  • undertaken a workplace checklist to review its gender perspective? Courageous Conversations have developed a useful Workplace Checklist
  • undertaken a gender gap analysis? The Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool. The tool is free to use and involves a self-assessment for organisations to identify strengths, opportunities and areas for improvement in existing gender equality policies, programmes and initiatives.

Tools and support

This content on this page is taken from the Social Procurement Framework – Buyer Guidance Guide to individual procurement activity requirements. Access a PDF version in the social procurement document library.

For more information about social procurement, please contact the Social Procurement team.