In Australia, where the gender pay gap among full-time employees currently stands at a little under 15 percent, the opposition Labor Party wants to push this number downward by requiring large companies to publish their gender pay gaps, as the UK and some other European countries already do. In a statement issued on Sunday, deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and Labor’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor noted that Australian women working full-time earn about $27,000 per year less than their male colleagues on average, the Guardian reported:
“We must do better,” it said, adding that a Labor government under Bill Shorten would “act to shine a light on the gender pay gap in Australian companies”. Labor would also change the Fair Work Act to prohibit pay secrecy clauses and require the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to publish a list showing whether large companies had undertaken and reported a gender pay gap audit.
Companies already report their gender pay data to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency but Labor would make it public, the statement said. “People will be able to search a gender pay equity portal to find out a company’s overall pay gap, and the pay gaps for managerial and non-managerial staff.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions backed the proposal, saying it would improve employees’ bargaining power and prevent employers from retaliating against employees for discussing their pay with each other. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, pushed back on the proposal, arguing that it might generate problems in the workplace and not actually help close the pay gap.
“You’d want to be confident you’re not setting up conflict in the workplace,” he said. “I don’t want to set one set of employees against another set of employees.” Morrison also pointed out that the country’s gender pay gap had decreased from 17.2 percent to 14.5 percent under his Liberal Party–National Party coalition government, whereas it had grown the last time Labor was in power. Nonetheless, Morrison said in a press conference that he was “open-minded” about the proposal.
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
Since December, Australia’s opposition Labor party has been pushing legislation that would require employers in the country to provide ten days of paid leave for employees to address domestic violence when either they or an immediate family member are a victim of it. The proposed legislation, which originated with the Green party and the Australian Council for Trade Unions, would allow employees to take this time to obtain legal, medical, and counseling services, attend court appointments, or make arrangements to exit abusive relationships and living situations, the Guardian reported at the time:
Employer organisations opposed the new entitlement. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry claimed it could cost employers as much as $205m to create just one day of domestic violence leave per worker per year. Unions dispute the figure and suggest the cost would be closer to $11.8m, based on estimates that 2% of female workers and less than 1% of male workers take the leave each year when it is available to them. …
About 1.6m workers currently have access to paid family and domestic violence leave through enterprise bargaining or company policy. Labor acknowledged the many employers that already provide family violence leave, including Medicare, CUB, Telstra, NAB, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Qantas.
Paid domestic violence leave or “safe leave” is rarely mandated at the national level. The only country known to have such a policy is the Philippines, where it is neither well known nor well enforced, the Australian Industry Group noted in 2016, when the ACTU first issued its proposal. It has been gaining traction at the state and local level in the US, however, and at the provincial level in Canada. California, Washington, Minnesota, and most recently Maryland allow employees to use the accrued sick leave to which they are entitled to address issues of domestic violence, as do New York City and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario.
Paid domestic violence leave has obvious financial benefits to victims and, advocates argue, less obvious benefits to their employers in terms of retention, productivity, and avoiding disruptions in the workplace. The moral argument for it is even more compelling, Lila MacLellan writes at Quartz:
Not since the term first emerged in the 1980s has there been so much discussion of organizational culture. Considering that discussions of culture on investor calls have increased 12 percent in the past year, it’s not surprising that heads of HR are keen to get this challenge right. When CEB, now Gartner, brought together 20 heads of HR in Melbourne earlier this month, there was a strong consensus in the room: It’s no longer enough to talk about your organization’s culture, you need to be able to walk the walk.
(Before we go further, it might be valuable to provide a shared definition of “culture” as it relates to organizations. As CEB defines it for the purposes of our research: culture is the set of behavioral norms and unwritten rules that shape the organizational environment and how individuals interact and get work done in that environment.)
Historically, a lot of the discussion about organizational culture has been focused on finding the “perfect” culture, with one side advising a “one-size-fits-all” approach and the other proposing different cultural approaches to suit different industries. However, as one head of HR in the room pointed out, we need to turn our focus away from finding the “perfect” culture and instead look at the systems and processes at work that are stopping us from achieving sustainable culture change. Even when business leaders in the C-suite are very effective role models, internal processes often stop employees from fully embracing the culture that the business needs to drive, creating disconnect between the organization and the people tasked with moving its strategy forward. This is one of the key findings of our latest study on culture change management, which CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read more about here.
This disconnect leads to problems, because even though 70 percent of HR leaders are confident that their organizations can define the culture they need, few are seeing true results in making this culture a reality. When HR leaders fail to create the culture the business needs, such as a culture of innovation, safety, or cost-efficiency, it means that other, less desirable attributes make up the reality of their current culture and stand in the way of the organization’s progress. During our discussion in Melbourne, one of the HR leaders in the room even said that this struggle between desired culture and results had seen progress in some business units move backwards.
Even though we know where we want to go, we seem to be at a loss when it comes to how to actually get there. What our research discovered is that the heads of HR at organizations who have gotten this balance right needed to close three key gaps:
Last month, a News.com.au report highlighted a novel way that a CEO in Australia has been trying to encourage better work-life balance and less presenteeism in his workforce. Robbert Rietbroek, CEO of PepsiCo in Australia and New Zealand, asks his executive team to “leave loudly” when departing the office so that they are being extra visible (and audible) role models for junior employees.
“If I occasionally go at 4 pm to pick up my daughters,” Rietbroek told the news site, “I will make sure I tell the people around me, ‘I’m going to pick up my children.’ Because if it’s okay for the boss, then it’s okay for middle management and new hires.” He added that if you are “younger or more junior, you need to be able to see your leaders go home, to be comfortable to leave.”
Since Rietbroek became CEO in 2015, he has been promoting a number of family-friendly workplace policies, including 16-week parental leave, flexible work times, and summer Fridays. The benefits are not just limited to working parents, either, as the flexibility is centered around the concept of “One Simple Thing,” where an employee can pick the most important thing in their personal life and can build a work schedule around that. For many, the one simple thing is being more involved in their children’s lives, but for others, like the head of procurement, it can be a hobby like surfing.
Sydney's central business district (Olga Kashubin/Shutterstock)
The compensation of chief executives is a matter of constant controversy, with debates over how much CEOs should earn, what form their compensation should take, how their pay should be determined, and who should have a voice in setting it. One way critics of massive CEO pay packages seek to control them is by giving shareholders “say on pay”—i.e., more power to reject the executive compensation plans drawn up by boards of directors.
To that end, in 2001, Australia’s government enacted a law known as “two strikes”, which stipulates that if at least 25 percent of a company’s investors vote against approving its remuneration report at two consecutive annual shareholder meetings, that automatically triggers a vote on whether to force the entire board, except the managing director, to stand for re-election within 90 days. The idea behind the rule is to give shareholders more power over executive pay and boards a reason to act on controlling it. And so far, Graham Kenny observes at the Harvard Business Review, it seems to be working:
The country has witnessed numerous first strikes with boards quickly backtracking to save their skin. Among the crowd are some of the nation’s largest companies – CSL, Woodside Petroleum, AGL Energy, Boral, and Goodman Group. The mere threat of a first strike has had boards treading carefully. It’s clear that boards are starting to get the message from the national government, shareholders, the public, and the media that excessive executive packages are unacceptable.
More than that, smart businesses are stepping forward to proactively embrace the changing culture.
Downtown Sydney (LeoPatrizi /iStock)
While the prospect of Brexit and the Trump administration’s approach to immigration policy are seen by some as the main challenges to global labor mobility in the coming years, the US and UK aren’t the only countries trying to reduce their reliance on imported talent. On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull abruptly announced that his government was doing away with the 457 skilled worker visa (the Australian analogue to the US’s H-1B), and replacing it with a more restrictive program that limits the number of eligible occupations and raises the threshold to qualify, the Guardian reports:
“Australians must have priority for Australian jobs – so we’re abolishing the [class] 457 visas, the visas that bring temporary foreign workers into our country,” he said. “We’ll no longer let 457 visas be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians. It’s important that businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest. So the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit the best and the brightest in the national interest.”
Turnbull said the new visa would “better target genuine skills shortages” and would include new requirements such as previous work experience, better English-language proficiency and labour market testing. He said the government would establish “a new training fund” for Australians to fill skills gaps.
The number of 457 visa holders currently stands at 95,758, the Guardian adds, with nationals of India and the UK together making up over 40 percent of them. The guest workers are predominantly employed in IT, professional services, and various science and technology jobs. Human Capital delves into the details of the new scheme:
“While the immigration debate in the United States and elsewhere is focused largely on unskilled laborers and humanitarian refugees,” the Hechinger Report’s higher education editor Jon Marcus writes at Quartz, “Australia and other nations have been waging an aggressive global competition for highly-skilled professionals”:
Nearly seven out of 10 immigrants [in Australia] are accepted based on being able to do jobs in fields such as engineering that the government and employers say there aren’t enough domestic workers to fill. In the United States—where technology companies in particular are sounding warnings about a similar skills gap they say is contributing to a near-record 5.6 million job openings—the proportion of immigrants admitted for their skills is less than two in 10. For advanced professional skills, the number is about one in 17, the Department of Homeland Security reports. The rest are relatives of people already here, plus refugees and asylum-seekers.