2,155 days ago, the US women’s soccer team lodged a complaint to the USA’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking equal pay to the US men’s team. 1,082 days ago, the US women’s soccer team also lodged a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation on the same basis.

As a result, a landmark agreement has finally been reached with the US Soccer Federation that ensures equal pay for male and female players in the US national soccer teams.

Some key facts which highlight the circumstances that led to this agreement being reached include:

  • The US women’s national team ranked first in the FIFA standings, they have been consecutive World Cup champions and have dominated the football stage.
  • The US male national team have never won a World Cup and are currently ranked 30th in the FIFA rankings. Despite this, the male team was getting paid significantly more than the women’s team.

The gender pay gap is a key employment issue facing many industries, globally and in Australia.

The global gender pay gap

Disparity in pay continues to exist between men and women footballers. At the 2018 men’s World Cup, FIFA awarded US$400 million in prize money for the 32 teams and US$38 million to the champion team (France). By comparison, at the 2019 women’s World Cup, FIFA awarded US$30 million for the 24 teams, including US$4 million to the US after winning their second consecutive title.

In 2018, Iceland took the reins by being the first country to introduce gender pay legislation in a progressive response to address pay inequality. The legislation mandates companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to pay men and women equally.

The Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ) decided that both their National Teams would receive the same bonuses depending upon success in the field. KSÍ hoped that their decision would encourage other countries to make similar strides in football for equality. Soon after, countries such as Australia, Brazil, Norway, New Zealand, Ireland and Wales have either introduced or pledged to reach equal pay agreements.

The situation in Australia

In 2019, Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia agreed to a landmark collective bargaining agreement. The agreement included sharing with players agreed accumulated national team-generated revenue, increasing the annual salary for the Matildas by a projected 90% over the four year term of the agreement, improving access to training facilities and specialist performance support for the Matildas and a review of parental leave policy.

This issue is bigger than just football. In 2021, Australian ranked equal last with the UK on gender pay gaps across six counties. The ‘Bridging the Gap?’ report suggests that the low score is due to a lack of meaningful change. While many companies and institutions in Australia have gender equality policies, it is suggested that these policies are ineffective. This is evident as the pay gap for full-time employees currently sits at 14.2% and it is estimated that women in Australia have to work an extra 61 days each year to earn the same as their male counterparts.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency is an Australian government statutory agency that promotes and improves workplace gender equality in Australia, and administers the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. That legislation promotes and improves gender equality in employment and in the workplace, and puts in place reporting requirements for employers with more than 100 employees.

Other key pieces of regulation important for gender pay equality include:

  • Federal, State and Territory anti-discrimination legislation, which make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of gender. This could include discrimination in relation to what a person is paid to do a particular job.
  • the Fair Work Act 2009, under which the Fair Work Commission has powers to make an equal remuneration order that requires employees to be given equal remuneration for work of equal or comparable value.

If you are an employer or an employee with concerns or questions about pay equality, please get in touch with our Employment Law team. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency also provides resources and guidance on this importance issue on its website https://www.wgea.gov.au/.

How can we help?

Should you have any questions regarding the issues raised in this article, as an employer or an employee, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Law team on 02 6285 8000 or by email.