Atlassian’s Scott Farquhar defends two-tier compensation structure for Team Anywhere


Mr Farquhar and his team arrived at the Australian National University on Monday in a decorated Jayco motorhome called the AtlassiVan.

He is on a tour of the East Coast and Adelaide to recruit more than 1,000 workers – 1,032 to be precise – over the next 12 months with the promise that the business will be location independent.

The website’s salary scale puts Atlassian’s average salary at $120,000 per year, with a bonus of $11,000. The website does not describe differences in pay scales based on location.

The Atlassian compensation structure in Australia is based on two zones: NSW and Victoria are zone A, and all other states are zone B.

“We went with less granularity here so people have the freedom to work where it’s best for their families,” an Atlassian spokeswoman said.

On differential pay, Paul Gollan, professor of management at the University of Wollongong, said the practice was long established but the rise of remote working had raised questions about its fairness.

“The market reality is that if you want people to work in Sydney, you have to pay them enough compensation to be able to afford to work in Sydney,” he said.

“But what the pandemic has done is show that you can be just as productive no matter where you are. You can be on Bondi Beach or Green Island, it doesn’t matter, unless there is another requirement for you to be there.

“Is it fair that you do the exact same job and be just as productive that you don’t get paid the same?”

For companies that want to attract skilled workers while encouraging remote working and want to attract skilled workers, the practice of paying less outside of NSW and Victoria was “a little strange”.

“If you want to be an employer of choice and you want to attract talented, qualified people, it wouldn’t make sense to me to pay a different rate of pay no matter where you are. You’d think the focus would be on talent and experience and on their productivity.

Alan McDonald, managing director of labor law firm McDonald Murholme, said that apart from the issue of fairness, there was nothing illegal about the practice.

“There are many forms of unlawful discrimination – far more than the community often realizes – but geographic area is not one of them,” he said.

He said the Fair Work Act has also “not caught up” with protections against discrimination against people working from home.

“Most of our peer companies have a similar market-driven compensation philosophy.” an Atlassian spokeswoman later said.

“Additionally, we believe the ability to live and work from wherever you want is a huge benefit for employees and provides more flexibility than most employers, which will help us compete for the best talent to help driving TEAM Anywhere.”

Atlassian’s compensation structure in Australia is based on two zones. NSW and Victoria are Zone A, all other states are Zone B.

“Technology is the biggest growth opportunity for our economy. Technology is the industry of well-paying, interesting and abundant jobs. And technology is the place for our best and our brightest. This is the industry we all need to capitalize on,” Mr. Farquhar told the assembled crowd of students, staff and hangers-on at ANU.

It’s a message that somehow doesn’t resonate with the younger generation.

A massive OECD report released last week highlighted the fact that a third of all Australian university students study either business, administration or law, while only 7% study information technology, although tech companies are some of the coolest brands in the world.

Mr. Farquhar has no answer to the sector’s image problem.

“It’s interesting, isn’t it?” he said.

“Four of the top five companies by market capitalization in the United States are technology companies, and they are the fastest growing and most exciting companies in Australia,” he said.

Recruit and develop talent in Australia, particularly in the R&D-space and the “people making things” – jobs throughout the software industry’s life cycle – are essential to “Australia’s future prosperity”.

Matthew Chen, 21, heard the news. The Canberra local will travel to Sydney for a paid three-month internship with Atlassian when university ends in November.

“I study computer science, mainly cybersecurity, systems and architecture,” says Chen, who will graduate in late 2023.


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