As it currently stands, it is within an employer’s legal rights to include ‘gag clauses’ in common law contracts of employment to ensure discussion of pay is kept confidential. Some have argued that these clauses, which often forbid an employee to speak of certain information, remain important due to their relevance in keeping salaries confidential and preserving relationships in the workplace. However, others have argued that these restrictions on discussing salary have the potential to leave women at a disadvantage.
Earlier this month, ANZ via Whybin\TBWA Melbourne Group launched a campaign addressing the issue of the pay gap inequality in Australia through the actions of young children carrying out chores. In each case, the girl was paid less than the boy and then asked about how that made them feel. On behalf of their new advertisements, ANZ have stated that they believe in seeing people paid on their merits as opposed to their gender. However, is this the current standing in the Australian workforce?
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), there is a 19.1% gap between female and male pay in terms of full-time base salary. This becomes a larger 24% when total remuneration is taken into account. The gender pay gap issue can often go unnoticed as those working in the public sector will understand that the gap is much smaller (12.2%) as pay is often set through collective agreements. In contrast, the private sector has a greater tendency towards individual deals which is reflected in the 21.3% pay gap statistic.
In response, Larissa Waters has spear-headed the Greens-initiated bill that is currently before a Senate Inquiry to rectify this inequality. The bill sets out to amend the Fair Work Act to allow employees to freely discuss their salaries without fear of punishment.
What’s being done? Minister for Employment and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash has stated that the Government does not support the bill, but will instead attempt to reduce the gender pay gaps through the paid parental leave policy.
Perhaps it is time that the law be changed to reflect the changes being made in the workforce. Whether you are in agreeance that ‘gag clauses’ keep women from earning the same as their male counterparts, the fact remains that the inability to discuss salary is becoming a controversial issue that needs closer attention.
If ANZ is committed to sharing their views and challenging the status quo, perhaps we have reached a point in time where members of society alike should not be afraid to engage with this issue and question the laws currently surrounding who gets paid what.
If you have any questions relating to any clauses in your employment contract or for any advice on your employment contract matter, contact our solicitors on 02 8917 8700 or fill out the enquiry box and we will get back to you ASAP.