How to check how much you should be getting paid

NICOLA FIELD
Personal Finance Writer · 23 November 2021

A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay has long been considered part of the Australian way of life. But ‘fair’ can be a hazy concept when it comes to wages, and it’s easy to wonder how much you should really be getting paid. We show you how to find the answer.

No matter how much you love your job, it’s important that your pay reflects your skills and responsibilities while also keeping pace with market trends.

Why you should check how much you’re getting paid

Recent years have seen wages creep upwards, with pay packets rising by just 2.2% over the 12 months to September 2021 based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. At the same time, a global report by the ADP Research Institute found as few as 43% of Australian workers have received a pay rise or bonus for taking on additional responsibilities during COVID-19.

Not surprisingly perhaps, four in ten workers felt they were underpaid in 2020, according to a Robert Half survey.

On the plus side, Australia is experiencing a skills shortage. The National Skills Commissions Internet Vacancy Index shows online job ads were at a 13-year-high in October 2021.

This skills shortage could help to push wages up in some industries. But it’s still important to check how much you should be getting paid – something many of us don’t do often enough. The same ADP study found only one in three Australians had reviewed their pay more closely since the onset of the pandemic.

It could make now a great time to check if you’re receiving an appropriate wage or salary. We’ve scoured the job hunting world to bring you three useful strategies to work out if your pay is spot on – or if it’s leaner than it should be.

Look up award rates

How much you should be getting paid may be set out in an award, a registered agreement or your employment contract.

If your pay is determined by an industry award, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay Calculator is a handy resource. It shows base pay rates, allowances and penalty rates (including overtime) that you’re entitled to based on your situation.

With 121 different awards operating in Australia, you may be unsure about which award you’re covered by. If that’s the case, the Pay Calculator can also help you identify the award that applies to your job or industry.

Visit salary search sites

If your pay isn’t determined by an award, job search sites can be an up-to-date source of information on average salaries for a variety of occupations.

Job seeking website Indeed offers an online salary search tool that provides an estimate of how much you should be earning in your role – and what Australia’s top companies are paying by industry.

Another option is to head to the PayScale website for details of the median hourly rate and median annual salaries for popular jobs and different employers. If you’re thinking of moving for a job, you can use PayScale to compare salaries for different regions.

Review annual salary guides

Many of the larger recruitment firms in Australia produce downloadable annual salary guide reports. The salary details in these reports may not be as current as the databases on salary search sites, but the upside is plenty of information that goes above and beyond a dollar figure.

If you want to know where salaries are growing quickly, or what factors employers are looking for when giving out pay rises, a salary guide can be a good place to look. That said, these guides don’t cover every role or industry.

The annual Salary Guide from Hudson looks at roles in industries like accounting and finance, human resources, construction, risk and compliance, IT, probusiness support, and project services.

The Robert Half Salary Guide focuses on a smaller number of  sectors – finance and accounting, financial services, IT, business support and human resources. But it provides a wealth of information, with salary tables divided into quartiles and major cities.

The annual Salary Guide from Robert Walters provides details of the job scene in leading markets within and outside of Australia, and is a handy source of information on salaries in the legal field, sales and marketing, and property and infrastructure.

Why how much you are paid matters

How much you get paid can make a huge difference to job satisfaction, workplace motivation, and of course, your personal financial well-being. And it’s not just about how much goes into your hip pocket today – being underpaid can impact your well-being in retirement, as it can mean receiving less in employer-paid super contributions.  

If you’ve run the numbers and decided your pay is legal but less than it should be considering your knowledge and experience, the next step is generally to discuss it with your manager or employer. This may be a stressful experience, but it can be an important conversation that gets the ball rolling towards receiving a fair pay packet. 

Alternatively, if it turns out you’re being paid less than the legal minimum and your employer isn’t willing to resolve the issue, it may be worth seeking professional legal advice or contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

Main image source: Juan Nel /Shutterstock.com


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This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Tom Letts as part of our fact-checking process.