At least one in six architecture firms are paying their employees rates which are less than the minimum to which workers are entitled under award rates of pay, a survey of more than 100 architecture firms has found.

In the latest edition of its annual National Salary Survey, the Association of Consulting Architects reported that 19 firms or 17 percent of the 112 firms that responded to their survey paid less than award rates of pay as specified under the Architects Award 2010 – up from 13 percent of all firms who indicated they were paying rates which were less than Award rates during the same survey in 2016.

This means that one in six architecture firms reported salaries which were below award.

The survey also found that almost four in ten firms (37 percent) were paying less than award rates for graduates.

The survey also reported that:

  • Despite high levels of demand for staff, pay increases within the sector remain relatively constrained. More than half (55 percent) of all firms offered average salary increases of either less than three percent or salary increases which are indexed to inflation (roughly the same percentage as last year.
  • Gender pay gaps exist across the sector even when accounting for men and women of similar skill and managerial authority levels.
  • Women continue to be more heavily represented in less senior roles.

The latest report comes amid ongoing concern about employment practices within the architecture sector throughout Australia.

There have been growing levels of concern, for instance, about an ongoing phenomenon of architects being forced unlawfully to put in extensive hours of unpaid overtime.

In its report the ACA said expressed alarm at the number of firms who were reportedly underpaying their staff.

It said the one in six figure referred to above was likely to be actually worse than expected in practice since amounts quoted within the Award do not include superannuation but those in the survey are inclusive of super.

Moreover, it said underpaying staff was illegal and could result in significant fines and penalties.

“ACA is very concerned to note that some practices appear to still be paying below the minimums stipulated by the Architects Award, and that this trend has increased rather than decreased!” the Association said on its web site.

“Nineteen firms (17 percent of those surveyed) reported salaries below Award. In the worst case, the category ‘Graduate up to 2 years’, the lowest figure stated was 37 percent below Award …”

“… Once again, the ACA reiterates its reminder to practices. It is essential to understand the employer’s obligations under the Award, and to understand that Award wages are a minimum.”

Apart from underpayment, the ACA survey uncovered significant disparities in respect of gender equity.

On a weighted average basis, female architects who had been registered for six or more years earned almost twenty five percent less compared with their male counterparts.

Experienced female directors/principals, meanwhile earn about fifteen percent less than male counterparts whilst women who are experienced associates earn nearly ten percent more compared with their male counterparts.

In its report, the ACA says it is essential for employers to understand their obligations under the Award, including the need to pay minimum award wages.

The Association also encourages its members to remain conscious of pay equity and to ensure their practice follows good human resource policies and procedures.