Australian small business employers to prioritise wages growth


16th September, 2022

Report: 84 percent of small business employers prioritise wages

Gender inequality was compounded by the pandemic, but that situation looks to be reversing as employers increase flexibility and wages to benefit all.

Men are earning around 7.5 percent more than women on average, down from 7.7 percent in April 2021 according to analysis of MYOB’s median wage data.

The gap was likely exacerbated due to the impacts of COVID-19, which disproportionately affected women in the workplace.

In fact, the data showed more than a quarter (26 percent) of small and medium business (SME) owners surveyed said increased caring responsibilities impacted more women in their business than men.

The data, which combines anonymised data representing more than a million employees with a survey of 1,000 SME owners and operators, was released this week in the MYOB SME Wage Report.

Key stats from the MYOB SME Wage Report:

  • More than half of small business employers increased wages in the past year and 84% see wages rises as a priority
  • 15% of SMEs said more women were unable to work at usual capacity during COVID, compared to 6.4% of men
  • 13% of SMEs said more women faced reduced job security compared to 7% of men
  • 51% of SMEs have increased employee wages in the past year

“The gender pay gap is a widely established concern across all sectors, with the WGEA calculating the gap, in terms of average earnings, to be 14.1 percent in favour of men,” said Helen Lea, Chief Employee Experience Officer at MYOB, citing WGEA gender pay gap data.

“On top of established and systemic challenges, the pandemic exacerbated many social and economic drivers that contribute to unequal outcomes for women.

“These were particularly apparent in the industries most impacted by COVID restrictions, such as hospitality and retail.”

Despite the gap, some outcomes of the pandemic have been positive for women.

The report reveals flexible work benefitted more women than men (11 percent compared to five percent) and they also achieved pay increases at a similar rate (11 percent compared to six percent).

Lea said the report shows the desire for businesses to get back on track after a long period of disruption – and that they’re willing to pay more to achieve it.

“Australia’s small and medium sized businesses are looking to return to a normal operating rhythm; however, conditions remain difficult with labour shortages and cost of living putting significant pressure on businesses and employees alike,” she said.

“Despite the challenges, these findings indicate the commitment of SMEs – the country’s largest employer – to deliver wage growth to the 7.6 million Australians they employ.”

While more than half of SMEs reporting they’d increased wages in the past 12 months, 84 percent said it was a ‘priority’ for them, indicating there could be more to come.

“By bringing awareness to the gender pay gap, and providing ways to action discrepancies, we hope to assist the sector to deliver more equitable outcomes for Australians.”

The new report from MYOB includes advice on how to perform payroll analyses to identify wage differences and whether they relate to an employee’s gender, as well as how to address any discrepancies.