Attitudes to gender pay equity in smaller firms

Social isolation Employment Sex differences Australia

This paper examines attitudes to pay equity of smaller employers to identify what would encourage or discourage them in ensuring pay equity within their firm.

To achieve this, semi-structured interviews with owner-managers of eight smaller firms (employing 100 or less employees) were held to explore their understanding of and attitudes to pay equity, their perceptions of its relevance to their firm’s ability to compete and succeed, and the structure and design of Human Resource Management (HRM) practices that enable (or not) equal pay for work of equal value within their firm. All but one of these firms was based in Western Australia.

The overarching question driving this project is, "What do smaller firm owner-managers think about pay equity and what would encourage or discourage smaller firm owner-managers from embedding equal pay practice within their firm?"

Key findings:

1. There is a lack of knowledge about gender pay equity within SMEs;

2. That in SME’s there is both ‘traditional’ attitudes of managers in relation to women’s and men’s work and more inclusive attitudes as a result of changes in the economy;

3. That gender-segregated labour pools from which employees are recruited contributes to pay inequity;

4. That awards hold back pay inequity between award covered, lower paid employees;

5. The lack of negotiation skills amongst women (especially those who were not considered to be covered by an award) contributes to pay inequity;

6. That individualised ‘rewards’ are given to high performing or ‘meritorious’ employees.

7. That the owner-manager’s values, attitudes and previous work experience is important in terms of their treatment of women.

8. That managers and owner managers of SMEs generally have a noncommittal attitude to applying a gender pay audit to their firms.

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