Quickhit: Pay transparency

ABC Online: Gender pay gap ‘should be declared’

The Federal Government is being pressured to force companies to reveal how their pay rates for men and women compare.

The Equal Pay Alliance, comprising more than 130 business and community groups, has sent an open letter to Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for the Status of Women, demanding mandatory audits of pay rates.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is among the letter’s signatories and its president, Sharan Burrow, says Australia has a culture of discrimination which undervalues women’s work.

“We’d like to see pay equity audits mandated so that there is a transparency [and] people know what the pay rates for grades right up to management are,” she said.

Categories: gender & feminism


8 replies

  1. Oh, how awesome this would be. Aren’t we supposed to love things that give people more information when “shopping” for something? If I’m looking between this company and that, but this one has a huge pay disparity…
    What it would do, though, more than anything, isn’t particularly about people searching for employment. It would mean companies would suddenly have reason to address that gap, and get themselves as close to equal as possible, so that they can tout their oh-so-equal-ness and not take a huge hit in the market because people can *see* how well or poorly they’re doing and make decisions — including consumption — based on that.
    I mean, if we’re looking at motivations, not so great. But effect, sounds good to me.

  2. I can see how this would be a great idea. A friend of mine used to work at a games company. An incident occured where one of the admin employees got his hands on the records, and discovered that all the men were being paid higher than all the women. My friend was getting significantly less money than a male employee in the same division, even though she had more responsibilities than him, and was basically in charge of him.
    It’s a stupid, screwed up system. Sure, there’s legislation that says you can’t discriminate based on sex, but how can you know? Once you’ve signed your work agreement, which stipulates rate of pay… How on earth can you know what other people in the org are getting paid?

  3. I like this idea. Is there a down side that I’m not seeing, coz at the moment it all looks like a win?

    • Just about every organisation will fight it tooth and nail. They will argue that it will increase costs if they can’t trick people who aren’t especially savvy/confident bargainers into doing the same work for less pay than other people are getting.
      This would help more than just underpaid women, too. Everyone who’s getting paid less because they’re not from the same background as the senior managers (ie “wrong” skin, “wrong” address, “wrong” school) will also be able to see how they are being undervalued.

  4. One possible downside: larger, better resourced companies would be able to check out the pay structure of smaller competitors and lure workers away. Win for workers, probably not so good for the market overall, or competition, or consumers.
    It sounds like a very blunt instrument that wouldn’t even do the job properly, since a lot of the disparities in pay happen due to differences between pay structures for part time workers, casual workers, full time workers, and people working in different jobs at different companies.
    It’s a populist measure that will help Sharan Burrows keep her job, I reckon.

    • I think most people understand that pay is structured differently for part-time vs casual vs full-time workers anyway, TimT, so I very much doubt that will be an issue. The published pay merely needs to include the loadings and the annual income as well as the hourly rate/weekly salary for full comparison.
      As to how different companies structure their work groups and pay scales, surely that’s another one that most people already know? In any case, Company A are hardly going to be taken to court for discrimination because they pay their data-entry clerks less than Company B, unlike the situation where people are comparing pay scales within the one company.

  5. I guess this sort of relates to TigTog’s #4 comment. Men tend to overestimate their abilities and skills, women and disabled people, non-white people, people from the “wrong” suburb tend to underestimate theirs. Also, women who assertively bargain like men do may be seen as aggressive and unfeminine, which could lead to them not getting the position or a promotion.
    I think I recall that women who are employed under collective bargaining agreements were paid more than women who aren’t. Figures.
    Tim #5, if the economy and competition depends upon women and other “minorities” being paid less, the the economy and competition suck. Badly. I speak as someone who has a reasonable chance of being paid less than a man would be for a similar, or even the same job, because I am a woman.
    Here is a suggestion: in the interest of competition and the economy, lower the wage that men receive for a job to whatever women receive for doing a similar job. The snark in me says that this would only be fair, because men do tend to be (over)valued more than women, and do tend to overestimate their abilities.
    But I wonder, how likely is the scenario you outline likely to happen? What would be the cost/benefits involved for companies to do that on a large scale, as opposed to say, merely headhunting the occasional skilled or professional worker who is exceptionally good at what they do?

  6. I’d love to see this happening. I’d also love to see it extended to the temporary employee business. Then again, I’ve been employed as a temp before, and I’ve been burned. I can remember my second ever temp job as a helpdesk employee, and the rate the temp company were offering me per hour was less than I’d previously earned as a 17 year old working checkouts on a casual basis. It was also about half the amount they were charging the organisation they’d placed me with. Fortunately, the temp firm had been so eager to have me placed they’d started me without getting me to sign any of their paperwork, and the organisation I was actually doing the work for moved fast and signed me up as a temp employee on their payroll. But ever since, I’ve been suspicious when I’ve heard comments like “oh, but the employers can’t afford to pay more than $X” (where $X is inevitably lower than the minimum hourly rate I mention) from any temp recruiter. To be honest, I preferred the checkout work – at least there I knew I was getting paid an award rate, I knew what the award rate was, and I knew what my entitlements were as well.

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