Which policies, programs and services have a direct and significant impact on the public?
Once you are clear on what a ‘policy’, ‘program’ and ‘service’ is in your organisation, you need to assess which of them have a ‘direct and significant impact’ on the public.
Is the impact direct?
A guiding question to understand whether the impact of a policy, service or program can be considered direct or indirect is to ask whether the primary focus or target of the policy, service or program is the public. If the answer is ‘yes’ then your policy, program, or service will have a direct impact on the public.
If your policy, program or service is intended to primarily impact your own staff, a business, local council, not-for-profit organisation or other organisation, then the public would be considered to be indirectly impacted. The policy, service or program would, therefore, be outside the scope of the gender impact assessment requirement. For example, an organisational sponsorship policy that relates to funding provision for community based organisations would indirectly impact the public, as the public are not the primary audience of the policy.
If you fund another organisation to deliver a program, policy or service to the community that has been developed by your organisation, then you hold responsibility for undertaking a gender impact assessment on the program, policy or service (if there is a significant impact on the public).
Internal organisational policies such as Human Resources policies or employment-related policies are generally not required to be subject to a gender impact assessment under the , however there may be some instances where there is an exception to this. For example, a Code of Ethics policy which sets out how staff are expected to deal with clients, including members of the public, may be considered to have a direct and significant impact on the public. If the Code of Ethics policy only shapes staff interactions internally, then it would fall outside of the scope of the requirement to complete a gender impact assessment.
Policies, programs, and services that directly and significantly impact the public may be developed and delivered across many parts of an organisation. The requirement to undertake gender impact assessments is not limited to areas of policy, program or service delivery where there are already known gender inequalities. This means that gender impact assessment practice must be embedded across many parts of your organisation. Effort and understanding cannot be concentrated in only one branch, team, or role.
Who is the primary focus or target of the policy, program or service?
Is a gender impact assessment required?
A new public mental healthcare service
Your organisation’s employees
Your organisation’s flexible working policy
No, unless the policy, program or service also directly impacts the public (eg. your organisations Code of Ethics for how staff interact with the public)
A procurement policy that sets out requirements for tendering organisations
No, unless you are funding another organisation to deliver a policy, program or service directly to the public (eg. funding an external organisation to deliver a community leadership program)
Is the impact likely to be significant?
Once you have determined that your policy, program, or service has a direct impact on the public then you will need to assess whether this impact is likely to be significant. A ‘significant public impact’ is one which is important, notable, or of consequence, having regard to its context or intensity. On the other hand, the opposite of this – i.e. an insignificant impact – is one that is trivial, small, superficial, or unimportant.
While these terms may be interpreted differently by different individuals, it will be important for your organisation to be able to explain how the assessment of whether the impact of a program, policy or service had a significant public impact was made, and to be able to justify your conclusion about this. The sections below may assist in these considerations.
Reach of impact
One consideration in this assessment is the reach. Some external-facing policies, programs or services may reach a large proportion of the community that your organisation typically serves (for example, a community housing program, a new piece of public infrastructure, or a community grants program).
Alternatively, some policies, programs or services may reach a smaller part of the population, but target people who may experience particular disadvantage or have particular needs – for example, services for people with disability, older people, survivors of family violence, culturally diverse people, or LGBTIQ+ communities.
Some policies, programs or services may be rolled out initially as a pilot, where the pilot itself reaches only a small part of the population. However, the potential future reach of a scaled-up version should be considered when determining if the impact is likely to be significant.
The above forms of reach should be viewed as significant for the purpose of the gender impact assessment requirement. Population reach should not be the primary consideration.
Depth of impact
Another consideration is the depth of the impact in the community, including any potential impact on health, wellbeing, social, environmental, economic or cultural outcomes for the public.
When impacts are experienced by any part of the community in any of the above areas, the overall impact would be considered significant. For example, a rural health service’s perinatal education program may only directly impact a small number of community members, but as health, wellbeing and other important outcomes are affected this would still be a ‘significant’ impact.
Is budget a relevant consideration?
Allocated funding for the development, implementation and delivery of policies, programs and services can vary considerably. Funding alone is not relevant when determining if the impact is likely to be significant. You cannot exclude policies, programs or services from gender impact assessments solely because the associated funding is on a smaller scale.
However, when there is considerable or ongoing funding allocated to a public-facing policy, program or service, conducting a gender impact assessment should be the default approach. A stronger rationale may be required if these are excluded from having a gender impact assessment.
Scaling a gender impact assessment
The length of time a gender impact assessment takes may vary significantly depending on the nature of the policy, program or service being assessed. As a general rule, a gender impact assessment for a piece of work with a deep and wide-ranging impact and significant funding implications would take longer than for a piece of work with a lower impact. Similarly, the required resources might vary significantly.
Defined entities should consider establishing a variety of models of resourcing dependent on the policy, program or service being reviewed. For example, this may include considering scaled approaches to consultation, such as applying a more comprehensive consultation process when undertaking a gender impact assessment of a highly significant piece of work.
Reviewed 23 March 2022