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Can you ask your colleagues how much money they make?

Finding out what your colleagues earn can be a great way to check you’re being paid fairly. Check out our tips for broaching this taboo topic of conversation!

Can you ask your colleagues how much money they make?

In a workplace setting, asking your colleagues about their salary is seen as a bit of a taboo subject in the UK. It’s one of those conversations that a lot of people want to have, but few have the courage to bring it up. There’s a risk of offending the person you’re asking, and there’s also a fear among employees that they will be dismissed by their employer if they find out. But what are your rights when it comes to discussing wages with colleagues? Should colleagues talk about what they earn or should they steer clear?

In today’s post, we’ll answer all these questions and more!

  • Is it illegal to discuss salary with colleagues?
  • Why is it taboo to ask your colleagues how much they earn?
  • How to ask a coworker how much they earn

Is it illegal to discuss salary with colleagues?

From a legal standpoint, it’s not illegal to ask colleagues how much money they make. In fact, it’s illegal for employers to ban their employees from having these discussions. Many companies will stipulate in your employment contract that salaries are confidential, and they have the right to do so. However, this is not legally enforceable and is just used as a measure to deter employees from discussing salaries.

Why is it taboo to ask your colleagues how much they earn?

Asking colleagues about their salary has become a taboo in the workplace. This is largely due to employment contracts stating that salaries are confidential. Most employees do not realise this isn’t legally enforceable and are fearful of having these discussions. In reality, salary discussions can be very healthy and are a great way to encourage equal pay.

How to ask a coworker about their salary

1. Pick the right person

If you’re going to bring up the topic of wages, do so with someone who’s working at a similar level to you with similar responsibilities. Consider the number of years’ experience they have, their skills and responsibilities. This will make sure it’s a fairer comparison. Ideally, you’ll have this conversation with several people rather than just one.

2. Don’t be too direct

This isn’t a conversation where you’ll want to dive straight in for the jugular. Remember, although it’s your legal right to discuss salary, it’s still a sensitive topic for many people and not everyone is going to be comfortable opening up.

3. Be transparent about your salary

If you’re asking a coworker about their salary, it goes without saying that you’ll need to be transparent about your own situation. You can’t expect your colleague to be open and honest if you’re not willing to first. Go into the conversation expecting to be the first person to share their salary. This will help to set the tone for the conversation to flow freely.

4. Put your research to good use

Once you’ve gained a good consensus, make sure you use this information in the right way. Your purpose isn’t to gossip and spread information around the office. Equally, if you feel underpaid, don’t allow your emotions to run away from you. Remain calm and professional. Although it’s not illegal for you to discuss salary among colleagues, your employer could still retaliate in an indirect way. Remain calm and professional, and don’t make any rash decisions. Your aim is to ascertain whether you’re earning a fair salary. If you feel your salary is lower than it should be, consider holding a meeting to ask for a pay rise.

Fairer pay for all

Although salary conversations are taboo, you should remember that you have a right to discuss this. Discussing wages can reveal inequalities and can also help you to benchmark your progress. But remember, just because someone is on a higher salary than you doesn’t make it okay to cause a ruckus. Stay professional and use the information in the right way. 

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