Addressing the gender superannuation gap within its own workforce was a no-brainer for Rice Warner, given the company’s own research has repeatedly found women retire with significantly less savings than their male counterparts.
But it was still a move that required an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act. After all, one of the most effective ways an orgnisation can address the shortfall of retirement savings their female staff have is to simply pay them a little more super.
Rice Warner deputy CEO Melissa Fuller sought to see what the consulting firm could do for its own female employees after continually speaking out about the superannuation gender gap that appears in its annual report for the Financial Services Council on Australian savings. She’s seen enough data to know how the gender pay gap, career breaks and flexible work can accumulate to hurt women: with the average 65-year-old woman retiring with $40,000 less than men.
“I decided to look at the issue internally as I thought there must be something employers can do,” she says.
What she came up with was a package of incentives for female employees that would see women paid 2% more in super than men, earn superannuation during the firm’s 18 week paid parental leave offering, and even continue to earn super for a further 12 months of unpaid maternity leave.
The package also includes flexible work options and education programs on the superannuation gender gap for employees, including what additional steps women can take to improve their retirement savings.
Fuller took the concept to the CEO, got board approval and then went to the Human Rights Commission to get the legal exemption on the basis it would help address gender inequality. So far, she says the firm’s mostly male workforce has been positive and supportive of the move.
Although only introduced this financial year, Fuller believes the package is already making a difference. She’s especially pleased to hear a number of employees are already making additional voluntary super contributions, despites still being in their twenties.
Success, she believes, will be as simple as seeing what the organisation’s doing generating more discussion about the gender superannuation gap both internally and externally.
“If we can get our female employees more engaged with their super, starting with the basics – know your fund, know your investment options, understand the benefits of contributions, know not to have more than one fund – then it’s a success,” she says.
“By communicating what we’re doing we’re also bringing awareness to the issue. If other employers don’t want to offer it, they can at least appreciate why we’re doing it.”
Rice Warner is a finalist in the Employer Initiative of the Year category of the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. Check back with Women’s Agenda for more on the finalists.