19 November, 2021
Would you tell your colleagues how much you earn?
If you’re anything like us, the idea of chatting to your colleagues about your salary sends shivers down your spine. But such discussions could be an important weapon in the fight against inequality.
The European Commission has long lauded pay transparency as a means to close the gender pay gap. A UK Government report on evidence-based actions for employers to improve equality also put it high on the list. Women are less likely than men to negotiate their pay, in part because they’re put off if they don’t know what a ‘reasonable’ offer is. Having a salary benchmark helps the applicant know whether to accept an offer, or negotiate for a higher one.
So why are we so scared of talking? Embarrassment is one factor: how would you react to discovering a colleague was being paid much more – or less – than you, for the same work? Another is the fear of legal repercussions. One in five UK workers have been told by they can’t talk about their pay at work. However, in both the UK and the US, salary discussions are a legal right – making these ‘gagging clauses’ unenforceable.
Of course, knowing you can’t legally be fired still doesn’t make it easy to discuss how much you earn. Employers can – and should – make such discussions easier by publishing salary ranges for different job roles, and being clear about the criteria for pay and promotions. But until every business walks the walk, talking the talk is a good place to start.
By Sarah Howden