In The Workplace

I’m 34 years old, a pioneer regular rank-and-file employee at a small enterprise established five years ago. Recently, my colleague, a 28-year-old man, passed his probationary employment and became regular as well. I felt disappointed when I learned we’re both being paid P650 a day for doing exactly the same job. Clearly, I’m senior and more experienced on the job. Isn’t unfair to receive the same rate as the new guy? — Brown Horse.

You and your colleagues are receiving the same amount of money for doing the same job. The truth of the matter is — you’re not being treated unfairly. Matthew 20:1-16 explains this in the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Perhaps you know this Bible story. The one who worked for only a few hours in the vineyard got the same pay compared to those who worked the whole day.

You can’t complain because we don’t have a law similar to the Equal Pay Act in other countries to ensure that workers who are performing equal tasks are paid uniformly while trying to avoid discrimination. But not in this country.

Technically, it’s about “pay equity,” as the issue is known among human resource (HR) professionals. The thing is — the HR department head and your boss have missed something. Managers worth their salt should be proactive enough to know all the possible things that could demotivate their people.

For one, your management should have made an attempt to give you higher pay in deference to your seniority and experience. If it cannot afford it, at least pay the new worker P537 per day, which is the mandated rate in the National Capital Region.

So, what are your remedies? There’s no avoiding bringing the matter to the attention of your direct boss. Your boss should be the first to know of your predicament before you bring the matter to HR. Explore all the possibilities of how your boss could help you. It’s important to do it that way as there are managers who don’t want to be ignored or bypassed, even if they’re partly to blame for it.  

More importantly, both of you would have a unified and powerful voice in bringing the matter up with HR. Now, assuming your boss supports you in your case, then what are the possible responses HR may have for you?

One, absence of a formal salary structure. It’s the first thing that comes to mind in your case. If they had a pay structure, you would not be in this situation. A pay structure means having a system with job descriptions and their corresponding grade levels stated clearly alongside with the minimum, midpoint, and maximum pay for each level.

If that’s the case, then such a structure would have to be established first by HR doing a job analysis with the help of all department managers, among others. It requires writing the job descriptions, defining the standards for each job, listing down the qualifications of people to be hired, and other factors. Further, your management must decide on the number of job classifications according to the required professional level and technical skills required.

Second, absence of a formal performance management system. This means creating a method by which all workers are measured by their actual performance and not only by their physical presence in the office. Why is that important? To create, maintain, and improve competitive advantage in the industry. It ensures that everyone’s efforts are measured objectively and rewarded properly.

In addition, it is equally important to motivate people who are indispensable. You may have a clearly worded employment contract that spells out mutual expectations, but if there is no evaluation system, your problem will be repeated with other workers.

These are difficult tasks for HR and other department managers. Imagine the time, effort, and expertise required. The development and creation of these basic and important policies need professional attention. HR needs a minimum of six months to one year, depending on the company’s headcount, job complexity, and other requirements to draft these policies.

To fast-track the creation of those policies, you will need an external consultant to do the job for you. This requires spending significant amounts as the consultant may have to do some investigation to determine whether salary rates are within industry standards.

 If I’m your management, I would increase your salary by an average of 2.5% a year representing an inflation adjustment for five years. It’s the prerogative of management, anyway. But first things first, your HR department must also investigate if there are other workers who are similarly situated so that the pay inequity is resolved in one sweep.

Note, however, that it’s also a management prerogative not to give any adjustment as your current pay is over and above the statutory requirements.


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