Unions push to close gender pay disparity

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has laid out a reform package to target bias against women in the workplace, including the gender pay gap.

Unions are stepping up the fight to close the gender pay gap, pushing for major changes to parental leave and workplace bargaining for women.

An Australian Council of Trade Unions-commissioned report has recommended abolishing primary and secondary carer definitions and giving families 26 weeks' parental leave to use how they please.

The research found women are paid 14.6 per cent less than men and retire with 43 per cent less superannuation.

Sydney early childhood educator Gwen Alcock says some of her colleagues are ending the week with $20 in their pocket, with 96 per cent of the profession female.

The average hourly pay of $22 an hour doesn't go far after tax and bills.

"They need to have their partners to substantiate their wages," Ms Alcock told AAP.

"The social effects of that gender economic issue means there are women in my profession who've disclosed to me they can't leave domestic violence."

The ACTU wants a new expert gender equality panel to be established under the Fair Work Commission, with the power to hear sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims.

The panel would also be able to implement stronger pay equity provisions, with the commission legally required to promote equal pay for women.

A separate recommendation calls for parents to be given the right to family-friendly working hours, rather than the power to request them.

"It's 2018 - my gender doesn't dictate my worth, my gender doesn't dictate my professionalism, it doesn't dictate my value and nor should it dictate my pay," Ms Alcock said.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil said workplace rules and structures had let women down.

"Working women power this country, through both paid and unpaid labour," Ms O'Neil said.

"Women face an unfair, uphill battle at every turn."

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