By Kate Patterson and Nick Tracey, Guardian staff writersThis article originally appeared on the Guardian website.
About two-thirds of all employment practices liability claims for wrongful dismissal are filed by women, according to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But it is rare for women to prevail in cases of wrongful dismissal, because the legal standard for proving they were treated unfairly is lower than for men, the ABS said in a report.
The ABS data shows the gender pay gap for employment law claims involving dismissal of female workers has narrowed from a peak of 19 per cent in 2015 to 14 per cent last year.
In 2016, the number of claims was slightly higher at 27 per cent.
The gap between the sexes widened to 13.6 per cent for claims relating to termination and discharge of female employees.ABS data shows a higher proportion of claims against companies with a female workforce is related to the dismissal of women.
A survey by the Australian Women’s Legal Service shows 77 per cent of female employment lawyers surveyed say they have been treated unfairly in a dispute.
The law firm, which represents about 20,000 lawyers across Australia, has conducted research for its quarterly report on gender pay gaps.
It found that, of the 11 cases where a woman was the main claimant in a case of dismissal, 19 per.
cent involved dismissal of a female employee.
The women represented in those cases had higher pay than the men who were the main claimants, it said.
It is unclear whether the ABS data reflects all employment claims or just those involving male workers.
But the gender wage gap is the second largest among the 12 occupations that account for the majority of claims by female lawyers.
The second largest group is health care (12 per cent), and the third largest group, retail (9 per cent).
It is important to note that the ABS does not have information on gender wage gaps for other occupations.
However, it does say that more women lawyers than men in those 12 occupations have been dismissed because of their gender.
Women make up just 4.5 per cent or 13,500 of the profession’s 3.6 million members, according the Australian Law Reform Commission.
The new figures come as a survey of employment lawyers commissioned by the ABS found that nearly half of them said they had been the victim of a wrongful dismissal claim.
More than 80 per cent said they were either threatened or bullied by employees over their gender and one in four said their employer had asked them to take on more work.
“I’m not sure if it’s fair, but I would be more worried about my job than my gender,” one respondent said.
Another said her employer asked her to take more responsibility for children and children’s health and wellbeing.
Another worker said her boss had suggested that she was “stupid for working hard”, and that her “job is a distraction”.
Another said: “I’m tired of dealing with people like you.”
A spokeswoman for the Australian Human Rights Commission said the ABS survey was “inadequate” and that the agency did not provide figures on gender discrimination in employment.
The agency was responding to a request for data about discrimination in the workplace.
But Human Rights Commissioner Elizabeth Stoddart said the data provided “a real opportunity to look at the evidence of the practice and to understand why some people are less likely to file a claim”.
“It is very difficult to assess whether discrimination against women in the workforce is happening when the issue is a matter of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, pregnancy or maternity, or where the discrimination is not clear to the complainant or employer,” she said.
“We have to ask what the impact of discrimination on women’s ability to do their jobs is.”