The GuardianThe Guardian

‘They were earning £10,000 more than me!’ What happens when colleagues come clean about pay

By Coco Khan

31 Aug 2023 · 8 min read

informed Summary

  1. Pay secrecy, where colleagues are unaware of each other's salaries, is a significant factor in the gender pay gap. In the UK, discussing salaries remains taboo, with only a third of people willing to discuss pay with colleagues, according to a recent poll.

When Martina, a 35-year-old IT analyst, told colleagues what she earned, they confirmed her worst suspicions. It wasn’t what they said, but what they didn’t say. Martina had seen similar roles to hers being advertised locally, all with a higher salary than her roughly £30,000 package. But when she brought it up with her co-workers, most of whom were men, “they all got uncomfortable”, she says. “None of them told me their salary, just that they were happy enough.” When a role was advertised in her organisation that sounded similar to hers, but with a higher salary, she took it up with management. “It didn’t go well,” she says.

Martina was told there was no budget for a pay increase. She went to HR to ask why new recruits were being paid more and was told all salaries had been benchmarked regionally. All, it seemed, except hers. Martina chased for this to be corrected, but there was always some problem or delay. Her morale was at rock bottom. “I’d had enough.”

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