Pay Secrecy Sucks!

Having spent the first half of this week on the English Riviera working with a fantastic group of clients, I’m (typically) a little late to a rather interesting ding dong between Darren Newman and Duncan Wossname from Dragon’s Den. The debate was around inaccuracies that Mr Wossname had included in a Daily Mail (hurp!) article about the Equality Act 2010. Darren says:

The error I focused on (there were several) was his assertion that ‘Employers are also no longer allowed to keep an individual’s pay a secret from other employees’. In the article he complains about the damage that will be done if employers have to tell employees what they are paying others in similar jobs. Of course, the Act does not contain any such provision. Nowhere in the Act does it even suggest that an employer has to disclose anything to employees about how much other employees are paid.

The article and all the hoo hah (especially the hoo hah) is well worth a read.

I’ve always been disappointed that UK plc is not more open about pay. When I was in the world of employment I always told folk what my pay was when they asked. Why shouldn’t I? I think that secrecy over pay is a major control lever which employers pull on regularly….to keep folk in line.

Oh no, emergency Clash takeover, can’t help myself: “All the power in the hands of the people rich enough to buy it, while we walk the streets, to chicken to even try it”. Ahhhh, that’s better. Where was I? Oh yes…

And then they often ask pay related questions in engagement surveys and wonder why they get crap answers. Lack of info = no informed decision, or put another way the input’s in gobbledegook the output’s in jibberish.

What is to be gained by keeping pay a secret? I believe that work would be a much better place if everyone knew what their colleagues earned. It would probably be a difficult thing to come to terms with on day one but I believe it would be a liberating thing. What might be even more interesting would be to let teams control a budget which includes the pay of their manager. Turn the model upside down and see how folk interpret value then?

What do you think? Is pay secrecy a means of exerting control over the workforce, or are we too reserved to handle the truth?

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Pay Secrecy Sucks!”

  1. Some years ago I asked my (now) father-in-law for his daughter’s hand in marriage. “Do you mind if ask you ask what you earn?” was his response. “Er, yes I do, and I’m not telling” I said. I think we all benefited from that little exchange.

  2. Hello Mike. I’ve received another reply via LinkedIn which simply states:

    “No. What I earn is between me and my employer. No one else’s business.”

    Until you mentioned the family connection I’d not thought about it, though personally I think it’s a fair question to ask (and equally to choose not to answer) in that context. In the workplace though I feel much more strongly that this information should be freely available, and that consideration should be given to giving control of the pay budget to staff to decide what their manager is worth.

    I expected to get mostly no’s to this question, we’re just not used to talking about and sharing this kind of thing.

    Thanks – Doug

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