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Pay Me What I Am Worth!

 “We feel the employer is exploiting us when it comes to pay.

We get paid a lot and then it is taken back from us by way of heavier PAYE, extreme work overload and a negative work/life balance. I am a highly qualified somebody, earning entry level wages and expected to deliver executive level outputs. And yet the HR department who is supposed to be our advocate, is telling us to take it or leave it. We have not even received an increase in the whole years!?”

My immediate response is that there is no cookie cut salary structure really because there are several variables to consider before we make the offer. Let’s look at how you remunerate your Helper at home. There are so many issues to consider, and these issues shift in their relative value over time. It’s your sheer ability to sustainably pay her salary.

And apart from the salary, how much will having her there cost you in terms of on-going training, work clothes, meals, use of utilities, accommodation, and general damages? And, having considered what others pay their Helpers, what influenced you to match or exceed her last salary? Are you aware that your Helper actually has a tertiary qualification and is fluent in English?  Is that important to the job she is coming to do?

This is a very simplified take on some of the issues we take into account when we look at salary. And I am deliberately staying away from concepts and practices such as performance based reward, cost to company, clean pay philosophies and all that. This is just going to be a light discussion around pay so that the average employee who feels exploited can understand.

Yes, there are employers who are practicing talent management and are strictly guided by the principles of recruiting, rewarding and retaining the best. Then there are employers who are on the other end of the spectrum. They will take whoever is available and the hope to do the best they can. Most employers are probably in the middle, probably leaning towards the former category. We are also segmented as employers into private, parastatal, non-profit, and so on. I make these distinctions so that when the employee compares rewards, due cognizance is taken of the different contexts of work and how they will affect the employers’ ability to pay below, at par or above market rates. It means basically that, just because you were paid P3500 for a job in company A, company B would not be wrong to offer you P2800. Which brings me to the next variable to consider.

Beyond affordability we have to look the actual job itself. Through job evaluation we derive the kind of information

necessary to describe and value that job. Maybe at company A you were called an Accountant, and your job included supervision of day to day transactions, going all the way up to preparing books and presenting reports. Then at company B you were also called an Accountant, and even though the competency requirements advertised were the same, in practice you are only supervising day to day transactions with the rest of the work outsourced. So, sometimes jobs have the same names and qualification requirements but due to organizational dynamics, the job content and deliverables will differ, which affects the pay associated.

Speaking of qualifications, I would always encourage people to do all they can to remain employable in their respective areas. Make sure you comply with all the applicable requirements your profession demands, so that you are always marketable. In my understanding, having qualifications is primarily to position you for opportunity, not necessarily for money. To me these are not automatically linked to each other. It is possible that your qualification is not a requirement for the job you are currently in, although it is desirable in your profession. For instance, if I am a qualified and experienced midwife, but the job I found was an assistant in a doctor’s consulting rooms, reading temperature and other basic vitals, it means I will be paid according to the job and not my qualifications. But my qualifications would position me to compete for the right opportunity when it comes along.

I know that my answer is going to be unpopular with many people who are experiencing this kind of frustration. Oh, the other issue was about the annual salary increase. There is actually no guarantee that salaries will be increased every year. In fact while we are on this, let me say, there is no guarantee that salaries will increase after probation. What you contracted is what you contracted. Until you and your employer talk about it, or unless your employer wants to adhere to employment best practice, it stays like that.

Always remember this colleagues. Employment practice in your organisation is dictated by employment law and influenced by best practice. Some of what we find disappointing is really about best practice.

Unfortunately there is no real compulsion on any employer to adhere to best practice. So, the onus falls back on you, the staff, to ensure that your employment policies, signed into authenticity by your employers, incorporate both employment law and best practice. That way, there would be legitimacy to your expectations. I hope that last bit doesn’t sound clumsy – but I guess you know what I mean by it.

The H.R. Dashboard



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