Australian small businesses are being urged to look at their payroll data today, as national Equal Pay Day calls into focus the pay disparity between men and women in Australia.
Equal Pay Day is celebrated in August each year by the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women, following the release of figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The date marks the number of extra days a woman must work to earn as much as a man from the start of the financial year based on average weekly earnings.
This year it would have taken a woman 64 extra days to catch up to the same amount earned by a male colleague.
Data released by the ABS shows the average Australian man working full-time earns 18.2% or $283.20 more than the average full-time working woman.
Between November 2013 and May 2014, men’s salaries increased by an average of $24.90 per week, while women’s pay increased only $7.09.
Director of Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Helen Conway, told SmartCompany the figure is an aggregated national figure and varies greatly from organisation to organisation.
Conway says employers are largely unaware they are paying women less than their male counterparts and called on all employers to check their payroll data for a gender gap.
“I don’t think employers set out to pay people unfairly,” says Conway, who believes employers often unconsciously subscribe to imbedded pay practices.
“I have talked to CEOs that believed they had no problems. It’s not until they look at the data that they realise,” she says.
While Conway says the gender pay gap is found in organisations of all sizes, she says small business have the advantage of a smaller payroll that may be easier to review.
“Of course we understand small businesses’ often tight resources,” she says.
Conway suggests small business owners visit the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s website, where there is a free payroll analysis calculator that allows employers to work out if a pay gap exists in their business.
Conway says small businesses should also consider any gender stereotyping assumption they make within their internal culture.
“There is often an assumption that for women who have children, that’s the most important thing in their lives and they are not interested in career, but often those assumptions are wrong,” she says.
“The answer to that is don’t make assumptions, talk to employees, but often that communication doesn’t happen.”
Conway says employers should also consider more flexible work arrangements for both men and women.
She says more flexibility in senior positions would open those roles up to more women which would help close the pay gap.
“You will not get gender equality until we have a true commitment to flexibility,” she says.