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Why 3.56pm is no ordinary time

14 March 2023

Mathematically, you or your colleague may be working for free for more than an hour every day. Here’s why.


Women working full-time earn 13.3% less than men on average.

We need to talk about 3.56pm.

At first glance, it’s just another time in the day, right? One minute in 1,440 of them that pass by with every full rotation of the Earth.

But 3.56pm isn’t any ordinary time.

It’s the time at which Australian women, mathematically, start working for their employers for free each day while the wage counter keeps ticking over for their male counterparts.

Aware Super has crunched the numbers and established that’s the time when women effectively stop getting paid.

The finding is based on a 9-5 workday and the most recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency pay-gap analysis, showing Australian women working full-time can expect to earn 13.3% less than their male colleagues in the same roles.

Almost a quarter of the way through the 21st Century, it’s a shameful state of affairs.

As the Federal Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, has noted, Australia’s gender pay gap means women are effectively losing out on $51.8 billion in pay every year. To put that another way, they’re doing $51.8 billion worth of work for their employers every year for free.

Aware Super, which has more than 700,000 women among its 1.1 million members, launched a campaign this month – coinciding with International Women’s Day – to heighten awareness of the issue.

It has designated 3.56pm as Pay Gap O’Clock, in the great tradition of Wine Time or Beer O’Clock.

Aware Super CEO Deanne Stewart, a Pay Equity Ambassador at WGEA, says it’s critical employers across both the public and private sectors take more steps to close the pay gap.


“At the employer level, initiatives such as pay equity audits, and gender pay equity policies that are available to all staff, are simple but important steps towards closing the pay gap,” Ms Stewart says.


“Transparency is crucial as it enables all organisations to be held to account on their actions and reduces the potential for ‘pink washing’.

“Employers should also have policies in place to enshrine that women and men be paid equally when they have equal jobs. This is particularly important for women entering the workforce to ensure they’re not on the back foot from day one.

“Paid parental leave and a super guarantee on both paid and unpaid parental leave can help to close the gap when women leave the workforce to have children, and affordable and accessible childcare is key to allowing full participation in the workforce when they return.”

While 3.56pm is the national Pay Gap O’Clock, the fund has also used WGEA data to calculate Pay Gap O’Clock for women on a state-by-state basis, and across 17 industry sectors as categorised by the ABS.

For women in Western Australia, which has the biggest gender pay gap of all the states and territories, Pay Gap O’Clock is a staggeringly early 3.14pm.
Meanwhile, for women in the professional, technical and scientific services sector, Pay Gap O’Clock arrives at 3.18pm.

Aware Super’s campaign comes after the Federal Government last month introduced the Closing the Gender Pay Gap Bill into Parliament.
The bill will require employers with 100 workers or more to publicly disclose their gender pay gaps.

Ms Stewart says the gender pay gap is the single largest contributor to the disparity in super balances between men and women.
On average, Australian women retire with 30 per cent less super than men, according to the ABS.

Lower pay creates a “domino effect of disadvantage for women” that runs through their working lives and then into their retirement, Ms Stewart says.

The fund’s analysis shows that due to the compounding nature of superannuation, every $1 contributed to the fund of a young worker now is worth $4 in retirement.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Australian women working for free each day from 3.56pm.



Aware Super CEO Deanne Stewart says lower pay creates a “domino effect of disadvantage for women” that runs into retirement.


This article originally appeared in Red Tape Magazine


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