10 December 2015,


THE Fair Work Ombudsman now allocates more than half of its legal work to female barristers, as it aims to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

In FY15, the agency briefed 56 female barristers and 34 men for its legal work, compared to 50 female barristers and 18 men in FY14.

"We have been pushing hard to achieve gender equality in the number of briefs allocated as well as the value of the cases," says Fair Work Ombudsman chief counsel Janine Webster.

Commonwealth agencies are bound by Legal Services Directions to encourage gender equity in the allocation of work, and a recent analysis by the NSW Bar Association suggests the Fair Work Ombudsman has led the way in its approach to equitable briefing.

"We have been edging closer to gender equality over the past few years," says Webster.

"When we receive recommendations from law firms about preferred counsel, a list of names that does not include female options will be rejected. We urge other agencies to follow our lead and set targets."

Webster has a team of 39 in-house lawyers, comprising 28 female lawyers and 11 males, with 31 percent employed part-time.

"Traditionally, many legal practices have put part-time or flexible working arrangements in the too hard basket when it comes to litigation work," Webster says.

"Our organisation has been able to put in place supportive and effective arrangements which ensure we retain valuable employees with specialised skills in a way that meets everyone's needs.

"With effective workforce planning, we have been able to create an engaged and talented practice."

The Federal Minister for Employment and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash says she has been extremely encouraged by the number of female barristers working at the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

"Gender equality is about women and men realising their potential and contributing equally both at home and in the workplace - to this end the Fair Work Ombudsman's office is setting a fantastic example to other organisations," Cash says.

The Fair Work Ombudsman spent $876,200 in FY15 briefing barristers for its legal work.

Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced 50 litigation proceedings and was successful in securing penalties in more than 90 per cent decisions handed down by the courts.






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