Understanding the difference between benefits and fair pay

Benjamin Kluwgant · 24 Jun

Using benefits and perks to replace what employees are legitimately entitled to defeats the entire purpose of what Perkbox aims to achieve.

While many of the Perkbox benefits are of significant monetary value, it is important not to forget that the very definition of a perk is that it is something extra – meaning, it is not designed to have any sort of impact on a basic entitlement.

In short, if an employee is not receiving the minimum wage after all the extra benefits are stripped away, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

How does minimum wage work in Australia?

The minimum wage for Australian workers has always been a contentious topic. In fact, this topic came under a lot of scrutiny during the 2019 federal elections – so much so, that the Australian Labor Party titled their election campaign ‘a referendum on wages’.

The task of setting the rate for minimum wage has always belonged to the Fair Work Commission. The commission takes a variety of factors into consideration, including inflation, the health of the economy and the cost of living.

Each year, the Fair Work Commission reviews the minimum wage and announces any relevant changes at the start of the financial year.

Since 1 July 2018, the Australian minimum wage has been $18.93 per hour, which works out to be $719.20 per week (before tax).

Unions have had a long history of protesting the minimum wage amount and lobbying the commission for increases. However, they have had little luck in doing so ­– only managing to increase it by a little more than five dollars per hour over an 11-year period.

According to Australian government policy, the minimum wage is supposed to provide enough money for housing, food, utilities and for a basic phone and data plan.

Accidentally underpaying your staff

Paying staff fairly needs to be a top priority within a business, and even the smallest oversight can turn out to be quite detrimental.  

A great way to ensure that you’re paying your staff fairly is to run frequent reviews (at least once a quarter) on your payroll systems. Also, it’s always good to keep your finger on the pulse of all the Fair Work announcements and updates.

That being said, we all make mistakes every now and again and during one of these reviews, you may find that you’ve been underpaying someone. In such a case, if you show genuine remorse for the error by dealing with it quickly, the employee will probably be understanding. If you can, try and back pay the employee in one lump sum payment – they will most definitely appreciate that.

The importance of offering employee benefits

Although the focus so far has been about how minimum wage works in Australia, it goes without saying that if you are only offering your staff the bare minimum, holding on to them will likely be an uphill battle.

While the more established companies might have the budget to pay their staff higher wages and offer them lucrative bonus opportunities, the story can be quite different for early stage businesses. Due to budget constraints, these businesses often struggle to offer their employees with much more than a baseline salary.

This is where the idea of employee benefits come into the picture.

Offering your employees a range of valuable perks is a sure-fire way to keep them content and fulfilled in their respective roles at your company.

If they feel content and fulfilled – holding on to them becomes a whole lot easier.

These benefits don’t need to cost the business an arm and a leg. If the right approach is taken, you can give your employees plenty of value without having to loosen the purse strings too much.

Retaining your staff through enriching experiences

One of these affordable perks that you can offer your employees can be extracurricular activities - ranked as the most requested perk in our Great Perk Search.

Creating an environment within your business that brings staff together through enriching experiences can often bring a sense of fulfilment and belonging that trumps any sort of financial incentive.

Here are some examples of such experiences:

  • Arranging volunteering opportunities at non-profits
  • Running in-house sport leagues and competitions
  • Offering valuable classes and workshops (e.g. yoga, cooking, sewing, crafting and so on)

The common thread between these activities is that they all involve teamwork, improve quality of life and perhaps most importantly – are all good fun.

Perkbox’s take on fair pay

Our entire platform was built around employee experience and talent retention. With so much competition in almost every industry, finding ways to keep employees happy and motivated while working for your company is becoming increasingly difficult.

This is why we do what we do. Inundating employees with perks, financial incentives and recognition opportunities can really be the difference between a happy and unhappy employee.

Perkbox views company cultures that involve underpaying staff as counterproductive. Not only is it illegal, but it also significantly impacts employee wellbeing, and in turn, employee productivity.

There are no two ways about it. The Perkbox platform is not meant to be used in lieu of fair payment and will not bring positive results to any workplace if used in this fashion.

Putting money back into the worker’s pocket

We’ve put a lot of effort into ensuring that our platform clearly separates basic employee entitlements from offering them additional benefits.

The financial perks that we offer through the platform have been (and continue to be) designed to help employees save on every day expenses, encourage them to take care of their health and make it more affordable to treat themselves from time to time.

Benefits like these not only incentivise the employee to work hard, but in and of themselves improve quality of life.

If an employee knows that they’re being paid enough to afford their basic needs and will also be rewarded and recognised for excellence, they are far more likely to perform well and far less likely to be looking for work elsewhere.