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Should salaries be made public? 'If my colleagues knew I earn £95k … – iNews

The idea of disclosing to colleagues how much money you earn is enough to make the average Briton break out in a sweat. Discussing finances is still seen as a taboo in modern workplaces, especially as it can be a delicate topic where pay varies hugely.
Research by job website Glassdoor found just 15 per cent of employees say their company discloses pay ranges internally and 75 per cent don’t feel comfortable discussing pay with their boss or coworkers. In fact, a 2015 University College London found that people were seven times more likely to refuse to disclose their salary to a stranger than their intimate sexual history.
Legally, employees in the UK have the right to discuss pay if they choose to, and it is illegal for employers to ban those discussions, but it is not something widely advertised or promoted. Yet. In California, USA, from January, companies with more than 15 employees will be required to include pay on job advertisements. What could a similar scheme mean for employers in Britain?
Ali Oothman, a telecommunications engineer from London, promotes open discussion about salaries among his team and has found that getting over the fear of talking about it has been helpful. “I know how much my colleagues earn and we openly discuss how much we earn,” he tells i. “I believe it’s highly important, as knowing each other’s wage helps to ensure you’re getting paid fairly and in accordance with the standards for the industry.” (Half of UK workers believe salary secrecy has limited their career options, according to 2022 Glassdoor research).
“I would like people to know my wage so I, and others, can make sure everyone is getting paid what they should be,” says Oothman. “For example, recently an engineer in my group realised that others who had done the same courses as him were being paid more, so he complained to management about it and recently received his pay rise. Without talking to others about their pay he would have never come to this realisation.”
Not everyone in Oothman’s wider workplace is so open to these topics however. “Outside of my group, people have been hesitant, and it can be a struggle to overcome awkwardness because of some people’s belief that it’s rude to discuss money. I can understand people thinking that, but being open only benefits workers and most people ease into the conversation once they realise that.”
Ingrid, a 42-year-old branding strategist based in Paris, similarly says there is no overall pay transparency at her company, but she has decided to individually tell colleagues who ask her what she earns. “I’m in a WhatsApp group with a few of my colleagues and we all share our salary, pay rise and bonus each year… I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Not everyone is so keen on the idea. James*, a software developer in the East Midlands, doesn’t want to talk about his salary at work. “I don’t want my colleagues to know I’m on £95,000 because I suspect I’m on more than some of my colleagues who have been there longer than me. I worry that, if they knew, it’d breed resentment and cause issues in my team.
“I negotiated a good salary because I wanted an increase on my previous salary, but other people who have been [here] longer won’t be on the same rate. That’s just how the world of work goes. Money is private.”
On the opposite side of that conundrum is Lauren*, 31, who earns £24,000 in marketing at a literary publisher, and suspects two newer hires are on more money than her, even though they’re doing similar jobs to her. “I’m worried I’ll find it too bleak to have my suspicions confirmed, and it’s not the kind of industry where I feel I can fight for more pay because there’s this sense of being lucky to have a job in this industry at all and that there’s always someone waiting to take my place. It feels like we need to rip up the pay structures and start again.”
The issue of pay can be a complex, sensitive one – intrinsically tied to a sense of personal worth and value. Recruitment company Reed asked 2,000 adults in 2021; “How would you react to finding out a colleague in a similar role was being paid more?”. In response, 15 per cent of people said they would look for a new role, and five per cent said they would quit their job. A total of 40 per cent of people said that discovering this information would leave them feeling undervalued by an employer.
Gavin, 42, works in the game development industry in London. “My manager suggested to me that I keep my salary private,” he says, “to avoid making my peers jealous, but it turned out that I was the one being underpaid. It made me feel like crap. I also felt there was nothing I could really do about it. The problem is that there is so much pay disparity in the first place in so many jobs. How do you measure and decide what is fair to pay people?”
Some companies in the UK are already doing things differently. Liam Baldock, 26, is the social media lead at new travel company start-up Flash Pack. He knows how much his colleagues earn because salaries are advertised with the job adverts, and everyone is in a specific band and at a particular level, which everyone can find out online whether they work there or not.
“Our company’s co-founders shared their salary with us, and that set the tone,” says Liam. “In other companies I’ve worked in, pay is an elusive topic; no one wants to talk about it, and so, when you’re down the pub with your colleagues, people are guessing salaries.
“Everyone assumed in one place I worked what other people were on and it was not healthy because we never knew if it was true or not, but the number being thrown around demotivated everyone because it felt the gap between pay was so large.
“This way, we have a level of calm where everyone knows and you’re happy for your colleagues and you know what level they’re working at. That transparency creates a really healthy, level playing field.”
Radha Yvas, one of the co-founders of Flash Pack, says that when her $55 (£45) million-dollar travel company went bust overnight when Covid hit, she had time to think about what she could do better. “Pay decisions were being made ad hoc. We would put job descriptions out there without the pay, as most companies do, quoting our competitive salary to attract talent and then giving them an uplift on their current salary. We had no idea whether we were paying fairly and, actually, we were just perpetuating ethnicity and gender pay gaps.”
Yvas says that she saw “men, especially white men, were starting from a higher base and a better position to negotiate for more money”. Women are taking home around £564 less than men each month, campaigners warned in November this year. Gender equality charity The Fawcett Society says the pace of change to close the gender pay gap is too slow and there needs to be urgent action from the Government and employers.
“We realised that being transparent about that was the only way to eradicate pay gaps,” says Yvas. “We do lose people in the recruitment process because they want an extra five or ten thousand pounds, and we just won’t do it. Once you develop something like this and everyone at work knows what each other earns, there’s no going back.”
All rights reserved. © 2021 Associated Newspapers Limited.

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