Same Job, Same Pay

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In an effort to increase fairness and decrease pay gaps within the workforce, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has recently reiterated its intention to mandate a ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ reform with the release of a consultation paper.

The consultation paper can be found here and some highlights from the paper are below.

Challenges to achieving ‘Same Job, Same Pay’

One of the main challenges to achieving the proposed ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ will be the lack of transparency around pay. In the past, employees have been warned against discussing their remuneration with their colleagues, therefore, many are unaware of what their colleagues are earning, which in turn makes it difficult to assess whether a gender pay gap or other disparities exist within an organisation and to what extent.

To help overcome this issue, it is suggested in the consultation paper that employers should be required to provide information on pay rates against each job classification. The objective is to make it easier for employees to identify any discrepancies and assist them in advocating for equal pay. It would also help employers to ensure that they are complying with their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.

Valuing work – a gender issue?

The consultation paper also highlights the issue of work value. This concept refers to the idea that some organisations value certain jobs at a higher rate of importance even if it takes a similar amount of skill and experience to complete them. For example, an industry which is traditionally male-dominated such as construction may be viewed as a more valuable industry than one which is female-dominated like childcare, even if the work involved takes equal skill.

It is proposed that to address the issue of work value, objective criteria such as skills, responsibilities, and working conditions should be assessed to value work. The hope is that this approach will ensure that jobs are valued based on their actual contribution to the workplace, rather than on outdated notions of gender or other factors.

Individual performance

A very valid argument against Same Job, Same Pay, is the issue of individual performance. It is thought that employees who perform better or produce more should be paid more, regardless of their job classification. While this may seem fair and reasonable, this method of determining a person’s remuneration can lead to disparities in pay based on factors like gender, race and age.

Once again it is proposed that objective criteria be assessed, including meeting targets or achieving specific outcomes. This approach would ensure that pay is based on actual performance rather than on subjective assessments which have a tendency to be influenced by biases.

How is the Government proposing to introduce ‘Same Job, Same Pay’?

The Government is currently considering amending the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in order to introduce positive obligations on labour-hire providers to ensure labour-hire employees are receiving at least the same amount of pay as employees who are engaged directly by the host employer.

Per the consultation paper, the Government is also seeking to highlight the importance of education and awareness-raising around ‘Same Job, Same Pay’. Many employees are not aware of their rights and obligations under anti-discrimination laws or understand how they can advocate for equal pay. In the same vein, employers also need to be educated about their responsibilities and how to comply with laws in these areas.

The issues surrounding Same Job, Same Pay remain complex and will continue to roll out over the course of the year. For more information about how these changes may affect your business, please contact our experienced employment lawyers for a discussion.