Australian employers actively working to close the gender pay gap

23 February 2017
  • 89% of Australian HR managers identify a gender pay gap within their organisation.
  • 97% are taking measures with the aim to close the gender pay gap. 
  • 31% say they are implementing pay transparency procedures aimed at closing the gap, a figure that rises to 48% in large organisations[1].
  • 36% recognise the need to implement a system where promotions are linked to fixed pay rises.

The gap is real in Australia – the latest gender equality scorecard released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency[2] states women make up half of the nation’s workforce but only earn 77% of men’s average full-time income. This data is supplemented by research conducted by specialised recruitment company Robert Half, which shows almost nine in 10 (89%) Australian HR managers acknowledge a difference in salaries across genders in their company, thereby acknowledging the existence of a gender pay gap within Australian workplaces.

Under the current Fair Work Act 2009[3] there are restrictions on private sector employees’ rights to disclose a broad range of information about the employee’s pay or earnings with co-workers. With the primary method for setting pay in corporate Australia being individual agreements, there is a so-called trend of ‘salary secrecy’ whereby salary level discrepancies can arise among male and female employees. 

Nicole Gorton, Director, Robert Half Australia said: “Women today are more ambitious than ever and high-performing female professionals need to be adequately compensated at a level on par with their male counterparts. While today’s female professionals have more opportunities available to them – the pay disparity continues which highlights the need for companies to take action. Pay transparency will put the onus on employers to have to justify pay decisions.

“It is encouraging to see Australian companies actively aiming toward closing the gender salary gap, which not only promotes ethical business practices, but it can also lead to higher productivity within organisations as competitive and fair remuneration policies tend to lead to higher performing staff.” 

This sentiment is reflected in a recent KPMG[4] report, which asserts the gender pay gap negatively affects economic growth by discouraging equal labour force participation. 

As companies strive to adopt more ethical business practices, Australian organisations are actively taking measures to address and close the gender pay gap. Almost one in three (31%) HR managers are implementing pay transparency, while more than a quarter (28%) are undertaking salary audits. A similar proportion (27%) are currently monitoring promotions and pay rises. Encouragingly, only 3% say they are taking no measures at all. 

When asked what additional measures their company would need to take to further close the gap, more than one in three (36%) HR managers cite a system where promotions are linked to fixed pay rises.

“Having a diverse talent pool within an organisation is crucial, particularly with the apparent skills shortage in several industries. In light of this, businesses need to offer competitive salary packages to attract and retain top performing candidates, whether male or female. Promotions should also be awarded to the most competent contender who embodies the required skill set and business acumen that will benefit the company.”

“This approach needs to be part of an encompassing process where employers reward their staff fairly and evenly on the basis of their experience and contribution to the company, factors that completely disregard gender,” Nicole Gorton concluded. 

100 Australian HR managers were asked what measures their company is taking with the aim to close the gender pay gap: 

  What measures is your company currently taking? What measures would your company need to take?
Implement pay transparency 31% 14%
Conduct salary audits 28% 26%
Monitor promotions and pay rises 27% 24%
Eliminate salary negotiations when starting a job 26% 22%
Implement a system where promotions are linked to fixed pay rises 24% 36%
Openly discuss salary setting, pay rises and bonuses within the company 16% 18%
Nothing 3% 3%

Source: Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half among 100 Australian HR managers – multiple answers allowed. 

[1] Company size definitions

Number of staff in the respondent's business

Small 50-249 staff
Medium 250-499 staff
Large 500+ staff

[2] https://www.wgea.gov.au/media-releases/australia%E2%80%99s-latest-gender-equality-scorecard-released-today

[3] http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1017

[4] https://home.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/au/pdf/2016/gender-pay-gap-economics-full-report.pdf

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About the research
The annual study is developed by Robert Half and conducted in April 2016 by an independent research firm, surveying 100 Australian HR managers. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.

MEDIA CONTACT

Gabrielle Nagy 
Public Relations Manager, Asia Pacific
P: +61 2 8028 7751
E: gabrielle.nagy@roberthalf.com.au

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