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Most people are aware of the reality of the gender wage gap and in recent years many businesses have taken conscious measures to try and reduce it. There is still plenty of work to be done, however in general things are trending in the right direction.

A subject that isn’t discussed as often is the fact that on average, women retire with around 30-40% less superannuation than men. Some reports state that this gap is even bigger. This is significantly worse than the gender pay gap, which is currently 13.8%.

Why is this happening? 

One of the reasons for this disparity is the time that a lot of women spend out of the workforce as primary carers – time in which they aren’t being paid any superannuation.

To make matters worse, government-paid parental leave doesn’t currently include superannuation and the federal government recently rejected a plan to incorporate this. Most companies also don’t offer this, however the good news is that some have started implementing changes.

Here are two examples of law firms that have overhauled their parental leave programs to include paid superannuation for both the paid and the unpaid parental leave period. In Herbert Smith Freehills’ case, this is up to 52 weeks. For Allens, it is a maximum of 34 weeks.

This isn’t only a great initiative for the employees of these firms and a positive ethical measure, it’s also good for the overall health of the Australian economy.

What else can be done?

In addition to companies taking matters into their own hands, there are other ways that this problem might improve. The government may also take measures in time, such as mandating superannuation for (at a minimum) paid parental leave. Offering further tax concessions to part time workers could be another government lever that could help; as the statistics show that many women spend significant periods working part time after having children.

Simply being aware and acknowledging that this problem exists is the start of the pathway towards solving it. Hopefully businesses and society will continue to trend in the right direction and the conversation will be very different in a few years’ time.