A very common situation arises within a workplace where two or more colleagues will be discussing work pay and neither the staff or management know whether it is legally allowed. Everyone knows it’s ‘frowned upon’ but you end up having the staff thinking it’s entirely fair to be discussing their work pay since, after all, it is their pay and the employer/management don’t want people discussing work pay since it seems ‘unethical’ and can damage working relationships by knowing what other colleagues are earning. So this blog will focus on the legal facts relating to this issue of discussing work pay.
Let’s jump straight in. Employees can legally discuss their work pay with colleagues. There you go, in clear bold writing – that is a LEGAL fact and anyone trying to say otherwise clearly doesn’t know the law behind this matter. However there are slight stipulations on the matter so let’s continue and look into the facts surrounding this:
The reason employees have a legal right to discuss their pay with other colleagues is because of this piece of legislation – the Equality Act 2010 and in particular “c. 15, Part 5, Chapter 3, Disclosure of information, Section 77”. Both staff and management need to know this piece of legislation to ensure there is no confusion in the workplace.
The key things this piece of legislation states are:
a) Employers cannot legally discipline anyone for discussing their work pay
b) Employers cannot legally have any clauses in employee contracts that stop workers from talking about pay
So as an employer/manager you must ensure that you do not stipulate ANY clauses in contracts stating employees are not allowed to discuss their work pay, this is illegal. Also you cannot formally discipline any employees from talking about their work pay, again this is illegal but there is a slight discretion on this point:
If employees are caught idly gossiping about their work pay (e.g. bragging about their high salary etc) then this is of course rightfully a reason for formal discipline, that is NOT what the legislation protects. The Equality Act 2010 states that as long as the individuals discussing their work pay were doing so because they truly felt there was a case of ‘unfair pay’ within the workplace then it is illegal to discipline the employees involved. THIS is what the legislation was created to protect and that is the information both employees and employers need to know. So as long as employees are discussing their work pay since they think there may a case for unfair pay then they are completely within their legal right to discuss the matter and cannot be disciplined or told otherwise for doing so.
Having read this some of you may be left thinking “Well this is news to me!” and the reason many people are still unsure of whether or not they are allowed to discuss their work pay is because sadly, prior to October 2010, employers were legally allowed to enforce terms within employee contracts which stipulated they couldn’t discuss work pay and could be disciplined or even given instant dismissal because of it! Then with equal pay rights etc coming into action the government added this piece of legislation to protect employees from discussing work pay to ensure unfair pay in the workplace could be discussed and eradicated without reprimand.