Practical tips to close the pay gap

The CEO of Diversity Works NZ offers her advice on how employers can continue working towards pay equality.

Practical tips to close the pay gap

Awareness around the gender pay gap is now greater than it’s ever been before but many employers are still unsure about how to address and ultimately eliminate the issue – here, one industry expert offers her advice.

Measure the gap

“What we measure is what gets done,” says Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, CEO of Diversity Works New Zealand. “Many organisations under the perception they do pay their staff fairly are surprised by the results when they really track the data accurately.”

According to Cassidy-Mackenzie, tracking the data can be as simple as setting up a spreadsheet but should include analysis on key groupings – such as comparable roles, graduate salaries, and rates of part-time workers compared to full-time workers – to identify where pay inequity lies.

Make a commitment                    

The Auckland-based diversity chief also encourages employers to be transparent about any existing pay gap and be vocal about what the company wants to achieve by when – it’s also effective to note who will be accountable if that doesn’t happen.

“Report your progress, or lack of it, back to your staff on a regular basis,” she says. “This should be done at least every six months. It signals you are serious about pay equity.”

Structure your remuneration review process

A subjective approach to pay can easily worsen any pay gap, warns Cassidy-Mackenzie – instead, employers should set percentage increases for remuneration reviews based on agreed measures of performance then have a review panel cross-check and challenge any proposed increases through an equity lens before they are approved.

Correct pay inequity

If your data shows that the remuneration of women in your organisation is not in sync with their male counterparts, then make the necessary salary or wage adjustments, says Cassidy-Mackenzie.

“When you are setting budgets for a new financial year, allow for these increases,” she advises.

Eliminate the parent penalty

Even a short break away from the workplace can contribute to pay disparity so Cassidy-Mackenzie encourages employers to review employee pay as soon as they return from parental leave to see if they missed a review cycle and give them the increase.

“Consider continuing to pay the employer’s KiwiSaver contribution while your employees are on parental leave – a couple of gaps in KiwiSaver contributions during a career can make a big difference to wealth at the end of a career,” she suggests.

Support women in your pipeline

Organizations should take steps to actively support female employees in their career development and encourage them to apply for higher paid senior positions, says Cassidy-Mackenzie.

“Some organisations have a recruitment policy that ensures the interviewing panel meets the top male and top female applicant for every role,” she says. “Other strategies to support women include mentoring programmes, allowing for flexible work practices in every role in your organisation and ensuring that existing female leaders in the business are given high visibility.”

Tackle unconscious bias

Most HR professionals are aware of what unconscious bias is but they should also be training their staff and managers to understand it and mitigate it in the workplace, says Cassidy-Mackenzie – especially during the recruitment, promotion, performance evaluation and remuneration review processes.

Reward performance not presence

Telling employees your company values output over attendance is a good start but it won’t drive meaningful results unless senior managers serves as role models, says Cassidy-Mackenzie who advises HR to workout flexible workplace opportunities for every role within the organisation.

Share the care

Equal pay isn’t just a problem for women, stresses Cassidy-Mackenzie – employers should also support the men within their organisation, especially those who are sharing the care of their children or their elderly parents.

Encourage male employees to take parental leave to look after their babies, sick leave when their parents are unwell, annual leave to attend school camp, and to leave on time to do day-care pick-up, she says. As men share more of the juggle on the home front, women will share more of the higher paid jobs.

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