Some 13 per cent of firms surveyed in the 2016 National Salary Survey are underpaying some of their employees, and female architects and interior designers are still being paid less than men.

These are two of the concerns arising from the latest National Salary Survey, conducted annually by the Association of Consulting Architects Australia since 2013.

Other concerns emanating from the survey, which had the highest number of respondents of any survey to date (a 28% increase on 2015), includes the discrepancy of pay between people in the same job role but at different firms, and that there was only a slight average salary increase on 2015.

Specifically, the preliminary report and analysis of the survey released by the ACA emphasises five key findings:

  1. Generally, there were only slight salary increases since 2015 for architects, and more so for technicians
  2. There are some very wide ranges of pay within role categories. The highest paid person in each category is being paid an average of three times the lowest paid person
  3. Firm size matters for pay rates – generally, the larger the firm, the higher the rates of pay, particularly in senior and managerial roles. However, there are exceptions
  4. A gender pay gap persists for architects and for interior designers
  5. Some 13 per cent of firms are paying architects under minimum rates defined by the Architects Award

The survey gathers data on 31 different roles in architectural firms including everything from technicians, interior designers and other staff ranging to reception and clerical positions.

Details on salary packages and conditions as well as geographic location are collected and the ACA says that they were happy that the 2016 survey had the highest number of respondents of any survey to date.

While the survey is an important tool used to track the salary trajectory of the profession, the ACA does suggest that the survey is skewed in a few ways. Firstly, the responses are skewed toward larger practices which means that although the number of staff covered increased by 46 per cent in 2016, the majority of them were from a smaller number of firms with the same salary policies.

The spread of firms in not geographically representative, says the ACA with lower response rates from the most populous states Victoria and New South Wales.  

Nevertheless, key findings are charted below and recommendations from the ACA below that:


What should practices do?

  1. Ensure that you understand the Architects Award and your obligations under it. This includes observing the Award rates as a minimum.
  2. Ensure that you understand the full cost of providing appropriate levels of service, and craft fee proposals accordingly. The ACA Architects Time/Cost Calculation Guide is an important tool to help guide these decisions. 
  3. Be conscious of pay equity and make sure you understand the significant costs that pay gaps bring to both practices and individuals. Access and use the Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice – in particular the ACA encourages all member practices to conduct a pay equity audit, to reflect honestly on the findings, and to take steps to address any unfair discrepancies.
  4. Ensure that your practice has good HR policies and processes in place. This is vital for developing productive, fair and equitable workplaces. The ACA’s HR Policy templates provide a very useful resource, which can be adapted to suit practices of all sizes. 
  5. Participate in the regular ACA Salary Survey. This provides a benchmark for your own practice, while also helping to build broader knowledge. The more practices participate, the more meaningful the survey will be.

The full report is available to ACA members. You can find out more about joining the ACA here