Actuary firm closes gender pay gap with 2% super hike for women – but can SMEs afford to follow suit?

In what is being heralded as a win for Australian women, female staff at actuary firm Rice Warner Actuaries will be paid a higher superannuation rate than their male colleagues.

The initiative is part of a package aimed at boosting the retirement savings of women in the company, in an attempt to bridge the gap between male and female savings.

Women in the company will be paid a superannuation rate which is 2% higher than their male colleagues.

But small business advocates have expressed doubt such a scheme could be replicated among SMEs.

Rice Warner consulted with the Australian Human Rights Commission on the package of changes, was given the tick of approval and today launched the initiative.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told SmartCompany 30% of Rice Warner’s 35 staff members are female, but the males in the company expressed strong support for the initiative during consultation talks.

“It’s a good step forward for women, particularly to remedy the fact many women will live in poverty in retirement just because they choose to provide loving care in their lifetime.

As part of the initiative, women at Rice Warner will also be given 18 weeks’ parental leave at full pay, be paid full superannuation during this time and continue to receive full superannuation payments if unpaid leave is taken for up to 12 months.

Female staff will also accrue long-service leave during parental leave, and have access to education programs and flexible working conditions.

According to Rice Warner, today’s 65-year-old woman retires with $40,000 less than the average 65-year-old male, equating to a total female savings gap of approximately $383 billion.

Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany he encourages supporting women in the workplace, but thinks it would be impossible for small businesses to implement a similar scheme.

“We really support the idea of doing something for women as they go into retirement, but the majority of small businesses couldn’t do this,” he says.

Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Yolanda Vega told SmartCompany the move is beneficial for women, but more needs to be done.

“The AWCCI would applaud any move taken by business that works…towards equality at work and after retirement.”

“What we need to remember is that women today still earn on average $1 million less throughout their lifetime than their male counterpart,” she says.

Vega says because the majority of men are earning more money than women in the workplace, a 2% superannuation rate increase is likely to position female retirement savings closer to that of males, rather than exceed it.

Vega says to alter the pay gap all businesses need to be more flexible and shift away from the traditional 9am to 5pm working day.

“Small businesses can provide a more flexible working environment and provide more part-time jobs so women can work and take care of their family at the same time.

Broderick says small businesses by nature are more agile and “by and large” are doing “reasonably” well.



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