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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 10:57 GMT
Should women know the pay of their male colleagues?
Should women know the pay of their male colleagues?
Giving women the power to find out how much named male employees are paid is a new attempt by the UK government to close the gender pay gap.

The salaries of British women are on average 18% lower than men for similar full-time jobs.

For women in part-time work, it is an average of 39% less.

Under the new measures, companies could be taken to an employment tribunal if they refuse to comply.

But the move is still not expected to go far enough to satisfy equal rights campaigners.

Should women know the pay of their male colleagues? Will it make a real difference to inequality in the workplace?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Different people offer different skills

Karen, England
I think this is very misguided. I may be doing the same work as someone else but what if I am doing a much better job than them? Should I be penalised for their under-performance? Pay does not just reflect the job description for your job - there are very few jobs that can really be compared like for like in any case. Different people offer different skills and their pay should reflect this.
Karen, England

Never ask a man his salary, never ask a woman her age. If my salary is disclosed to my female colleague, her year of birth should also be disclosed to me.
Khairul Hasan, UK

If you are worth your money what have you to hide or even be ashamed of?
James Richards, Scotland

Are men going to be allowed to see how often each year women are allowed to leave early or avoid working extra when the pressure is on, with the excuse of "family requirements"? For all the talk of equality there is only a tiny percentage of women who actually work as hard as men and women definitely get preferential treatment in terms of actual hours worked, anti-social hours, sickness allowance etc.
Bernard, UK

It's nothing to do with sexism

Marc, UK
I work for an American investment bank in the city and I can't see how two people's salaries can be judged against each other even if they do the same job. I'm paid several thousand pounds more than a lady who does exactly the same job as me. Why? Well it's nothing to do with sexism it's simply because she's been working for two years having come straight out of uni while I've been working for ten years and had to be offered an incentive to leave my previous employer.
Marc, UK

I work for the public sector where we have a salary scale. This is surely a better way of awarding pay because of the transparency involved. Male or female, if you're on the same scale you're on the same money.
James, UK

I am all for equality for equal work. What I don't agree with are demands from women for more money when they can't undertake the work involved and rely on males to do the dirty work or heavy lifting for them. Realistically, there are some jobs where women are physically not capable of undertaking the work, yet a company can be prosecuted if it doesn't offer the position to both sexes!
Rob, England

It seems to me that people are losing sight of the fact that jobs like most things are subject to supply and demand. I work in the IT industry and the average salary I could demand has gone down by about 5-10K over the last few months. Not because my skill set has changed but because there are a lot more people chasing a lot less jobs...
Glenn Mcmurrary, UK

I think women are in danger of demanding too much

Ben, England
As a business owner I believe that feminists are in danger of doing more harm to women's rights than they realise. I am male but I show no favouritism towards men when it comes to pay. However, certain proposals, such as this, are starting to make me wary about employing women. I think women are in danger of demanding too much in the hope of having it all, only to realise that they have killed the goose, and bitten off more than they can chew! Hoisted by their own petard, so to speak!
Ben, England

The job position should have a salary set for the expertise needed to carry it out - not determined whether it is done by a man or woman. There are too many glass ceilings still in existence when it comes to working women.
Cheryl Cardwell, England

In some countries, it is compulsory for employees to have access to everyone else's salary information. Surely this would be a good idea! However, I disagree that this is a gender specific discussion. As has been said, many men doing the same job don't get paid the same as others.
Frank Ward, UK

I think that pay scales and performance targets should be transparent

Jo, UK
There are a lot of men getting quite uppity about this - got something to hide boys? I think that pay scales and performance targets should be transparent, so that employees know what is expected of them in order to get greater rewards than their colleagues (if that is what they want). If people choose to start a family, which involves taking 6 months maternity leave, then they should accept that there is a price to pay in terms of them having six months less experience than a male colleague who may have been their equal before that. I don't have children and I don't plan any and I don't see why I should be paid less simply because other women make that choice.
Jo, UK

Nobody should be able to find out what someone else earns without their consent. I consider a person's salary to be a private matter - male or female.
Richard, UK

Everybody should have the right to find out if others in the same job are earning more or less than them. You are employed for your skills, not for your salesmanship and negotiation tactics (unless that's your job) so you shouldn't be judged on those criteria.
Andrew Bartlett, UK

I was considered of less worth than a lazy, mediocre male colleague

Claire, UK
I wonder how many of those who have argued against revealing men's pay have actually suffered discrimination in this field, as I have? I discovered, some years after the event, that a male colleague, who worked shorter hours than me, and whose performance was, at best, mediocre, was paid 20% more than me!
This happened in an organisation that I had always believed to be a fair employer. Because salaries were kept secret, I was unable to complain about it, and now feel very bitter. It seems that, although I worked long hours and did demanding work, I was considered of less worth than a lazy, mediocre male colleague.
Claire, UK

I think everybody accepts that paying females less for the same work is morally and ethically wrong.
However this proposal is the wrong way to achieve parity and, assuming it isn't quietly buried, I really cannot see it surviving the first legal challenge to it be it on sex discrimination grounds, human rights or whatever unless it is so watered down as to make it useless in practice.
Tim, UK

I don't think anyone has a right to know someone else's salary - but when someone let slip what he was earning at my brothers first job (1K more than everyone else - an admin error!) all the other workers ganged up and demanded a 1K pay rise - and got it! If everyone sticks together, you should be able to negotiate a much better pay rise!
Sandra, UK

Simply put No. Discrimination is discrimination no matter how positively you attempt to spin it. The intention is good but why just stop at allowing women to know a male colleagues salary? I have worked in companies where there have been great gulfs between the salaries of men with similar roles and competence so why not just make it fair for everyone in the first place. After some experience in this matter no company should be allowed by law to ban employees from discussing their salary.
Chris Webster, UK

This sounds more like a socialist environment. People get salary on the basis of performance not because someone else is making more or less then them. If someone is getting a salary because of his/her performance, it doesn't entitle everyone in the same position to demand the same salary.
Shubham Pandey, USA

I absolutely do not want to know what a specific male colleague earns

K Sadler, UK
I'm female, I work in the male dominated IT industry, and I absolutely do not want to know what a specific male colleague earns. I can judge the market rate from looking at multiple job adverts, I can judge which companies pay more through benefits, and then it is down to me to target the right company and negotiate the best deal I can get. If a company doesn't offer enough I can choose to go elsewhere. If this absurd suggestion was put into effect, business would lose millions of working hours, while employees argued over who was earning more than them and why, goodwill and good working relationships would be destroyed, and productivity and therefore jobs would be lost.
K Sadler, UK

At last, the Nosy Parkers' Charter.
Christopher, UK

Surely this reinforces sexual inequality if women do not know the pay of men. What kind of society do we live in, if women continue to be paid at a lower level than men. You don't have to tell me who decides these split wages in the first place. Imagine if the boot was on the other foot and women were paid more than men!
Kim Sherwin, UK

As a self-employed contractor working alongside both permanent employees and other contractors in the same company this would be a nightmare. For a start, permanent employees get paid significantly less, because they have the security of a permanent job. Other contractors may have negotiated themselves different rates for the same jobs. To know exactly the rates/salaries would engender bad feeling amongst employees/contractors.That's the main reason to keep it secret. If women feel they should earn more - they should be more agressive in their negotiations. Period.
RP, England

I'm perfectly happy for a woman to know what my salary is, so long as she's paying it. It's up to the employee to negotiate the best deal they can get from an employer: if you're worth it, you'll probably get what you ask for. And if you think you're worth more than you're offered then go elsewhere. I know several women who earn more than their male counterparts and I haven't heard the men getting precious and petulant about it - possibly because it's none of their business and they haven't been told. Cuts both ways doesn't it? Chris B. UK
Chris B, England

When I worked as a teacher, the pay scales were transparent - pay was determined on qualifications, length of service and special responibility points. Everyone knew more or less what others were paid. However, in the private sector, where I now work, everyone is expected to negotiate their own package and there is a huge difference in pay - the differential is not so much between the sexes, as in one's ability to talk up one's salary. Women are usually not as good as men at doing this, in my experience - we should get better training in this!
Judith Young, England

No one should be privy to anyone else's salary

J Pearse, UK
No one should be privy to anyone else's salary unless specific approval is given. It's between you, your boss and HR/income.
J Pearse, UK

I personally feel gender is less of an issue here because you should be compensated based on how you perform, and your output. What I would like to see happen personally is a set pay scale within a preset range based on the skills and responsibilities of each job within a company. Then from this preset scale for each job function within a company, the employees are evaluated and paid according to their performance within that pay scale. I say if a women performs better than me at a job pay her more, she deserves it!
Brandon Saunders, Canada

I think the real question is should other people be allowed to know what your salary is - regardless of their gender.
James Ross, UK

Why should salaries always be the same? If negotiating tough financial deals is the basis of your job, then surely the salary you manage to negotiate is indicative of your competence to do the job?!
Rhys Jaggar, England

As a man who has worked with women for all of my working life, I have always found it offensive that women are paid less than men. For women in an equal job, 18% less is simply disgraceful. In a competitive company there will always be slight differences in pay rates, but I feel that everyone needs to have a right to know the salary of equivalent employees. Women and men have a right to work in a discrimination free environment, and this may be the only way to ensure this.
Will Parker, UK

I find this issue really infuriating, as a white, male, aged between 18 and 25, and from a middle class background I meet no demographic that employers need to accommodate in their 'equal' opportunities policy. In today's society women have the upper hand entirely and giving women the right to see my personal details is yet another breach of my civil liberties. I have to ask whether this means that any new women employees will receive the same salary as me when I have earned my pay rises and developed the skills that justify the salary. Equality - don't make me laugh!
Jonathan, UK

The argument seems to be based on a faulty premise. Women on average earn 18% less because, on average, women are more likely than men to be in lower paid positions i.e. teaching, NHS and cleaning whilst men are more likely, on average, to be in higher paid positions i.e. IT, Finance. So until there is equal numbers of men and women in each profession there will always be, on average, a discrepancy.
Guy, UK

I feel that citing a percentage differential in salary is misleading in this argument, since there are many reasons for a difference in salary. The main one tends to be maternity breaks. This (depending on how soon a woman returns) disadvantages her in terms of lost experience and limited availability once she has returned to the workplace. While this could equally apply to the growing number of fathers taking time out of employment it does nothing for one's skills and experience. As someone who has constantly had to cover for colleagues on maternity leave, children's sports days, and nativities, I managed to negotiate a higher salary in lieu of this which (if my maternity-taking colleagues discovered this) I would defend with a clear conscience. I have no children, but if my wife and I decide to do so, I will not expect others to go unrewarded for their efforts covering what is, after all, my lifestyle choice.
Colin, UK

Men are still conditioned to be the main breadwinners in the household. Maybe they get paid more because they are more motivated to chase the high-paying jobs and pursue pay rises to provide for their families.
Keith, UK

If the salary is fair, why shouldn't everyone know?

Andy Wood, UK

I always thought it a bit odd that people wanted to keep their salaries secret. I even worked places where it was a sackable offence to let someone else at work know how much you got paid! If the salary is fair, why shouldn't everyone know? I'm not sure I like the idea of the legislation though! More Nanny State from Blair and his cronies! If you want to know how much someone earns, ask them!
Andy G.M. Wood, UK (London)

I personally have never understood why people are so cagey about salaries anyway. If someone wanted to make my meagre reward public, then fine. Having said that, if equality is the aim here, why not say anyone can check anyone else's salary- not just give a right to women alone.
Richard Chubb, UK

I don't understand all this fuss about equal rights. I have been working for many years and back when I started no-one would have suggested that women should get equal pay. I'm not a sexist, but it's simply the case that women don't work as efficiently. Otherwise they already would be earning as much as men. There's no 'discrimination'. It's simply like saying that women don't have such good spatial awareness while men aren't as in touch with their feelings. Both these statements are true! Women should stop trying to be men and focus on their own strengths - home caring and child raising.
Philip Chandler, Oxford, England

Many women in the workplace are there earning a second income for their family unit, most men in the workplace are there as the principal breadwinner. As a consequence of this, men are far more likely to show long term loyalty to their employer and this ought to be rewarded. This must explain at least part of this pay imbalance. I am all for equality but this is just more positive discrimination on the part of women and yet another botched piece of political correctness from this control-freak administration.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

Anyone who has ever had to set pay scales will be will aware of all the subtle issues surrounding individual salaries. It is very difficult to articulate 'trust' and 'consistency', or 'pleasant nature' in a job appraisal, and also whether someone does 100% of the job or 105% (go that extra mile without wingeing). This 'policy' looks at life as too 'black-and-white' (which reminds me - will ethnic minorities also be able to look at the pay of their white counterparts?), and not as it really is. When you employ someone, they come as a whole package, not just as what the job description says.
Martin, UK

Just letting women know mens' pay seems a little unfair to say the least. To be fair and to help everyone (those who lose out through other discrimination or just from not asking for more) a scheme whereby the salaries of all in equivalent positions in the company are published, with details of hours worked and years of experience, to enable pay awards to be more transparent. Details may identify people in certain firms but actual naming should be unnecessary and details should be restricted to those in the statistics and their managers who are deciding the pay.
Hannah, UK

Equal rights campaigners? What about my rights to privacy - no-one should be entitled to know what I earn. It's between my boss and me.
Andy Brown, UK

"Equal pay for equal work" that was the outline of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975. Twenty-five years on and we're still not equal. Why are the British so coy about discussing pay? Surely that is what everyone works for and openness should be encouraged if it is going to make women as valued as men. One of the problems is that this occurs a lot at the less skilled end of the job market where women do not expect so much. There needs to be a campaign which educates people about this situation and not allow companies to continually discriminate. So long as women have babies however I don't believe we will be truly equal. Men (and companies) will not give up their advantages without a fight.
Kate, England

The law should apply to everyone, male or female

JS, England
The law should apply to everyone, male or female, otherwise it is not promoting equal opportunities for all.
JS, England

Absolutely not. Another employee's pay is none of my business. That said, a Pay Band is exactly that - it should not be gender specific and therefore applies to all employees carrying out the same job title. Some employees will earn more because of length of service and, outstanding performance. Rather that narrow the gap, I do believe that the release of such information would only create further discontent in an already emotionally charged atmosphere, and do little to improve morale.
Di Stewart, USA

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. In my many years of work I have never known an employer hand out cash for the sake of it - you have to either earn your wage or 'negotiate' for it and if you don't like what you earn then you are free to change your employer, (if you can't do that then you are probably earning more than you deserve). Either way it makes no difference if you are a man or a woman, you still have to play the game to get ahead.
Mark , UK

Does this assume that all males doing the same job with the same qualifications and the same experience all get the same pay. That is an incorrect assumption even within one department. I don't have the right to know my fellow workers annual pay, so why should someone have the right to know mine? Does she get the right to pick the pay level that she wants as well? Sounds like the sex discrimination act working in favour of the female sex again!!
Robert, UK

Suppose the boss lies and tells the female worker that her male counterpart has the same wage (when in fact he earns more). What then? I am all for equality in responsibility and pay, but I fail to see how this law will bring into line any sexist employers out there.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland

If this 'right' is given only to women and not to men then it is not only sexist but quite possibly illegal.
Davy, UK

I'm shocked to see how quickly people have been offended by this idea. Generally, the offence seems to be taken by people who feel they've got something to lose. You'd think that they would somehow make less money if women got paid the same as they! Stop seeing it as a right given to only women and realize that a step towards equalization would help us all. And as for all the "human rights offence" nonsense, I honestly don't make so much money to be coy about it; if someone wanted to know, especially if they felt that they were underpaid, I'd tell them.
Tracey, Canada

Payment to any employee should be for the role, authority and responsibility regardless of gender, and published within a company so that employees can make an informed choice on career progression, for example. Pay differentials should exist only because of clearly documented and agreed performance criteria and be common to men and women.
Dave, UK

This is appalling discrimination against men

Richard, UK
This is appalling discrimination against men. It is no better than men having higher salaries in the first place! I suspect the problem is mainly historical and doesn't affect modern workplaces (it certainly doesn't in mine). The only fair solution is to have a transparancy of salary information for all workers - regardless of gender or status.
Richard, UK

Yet again the poor me, whiney women brigade get pandered too, what happened to all the up front 'girl power' rubbish. In the public sector men and women are paid equally, in the private sector it is for you to negotiate your package based upon what you consider your worth to be to the company; if women value themselves less that's their bad luck. Grow up ladies, you are in the adult world now.
Gerry, Scotland

I'm not sure why the male commentators on this page feel so hard done by. (Maybe it will give them an insight into the way women have felt for so long!) It can only be down to the fact that they are aware of the iniquities and can't face the competition once women know the truth. I'm sure it makes them feel powerful and superior to think they get paid more than their female counterparts, and the very idea that women might expect the same pay scale for doing the same job, must feel very threatening to them. Anyway, the bill is aimed at the employer revealing the figures, not the employee. But I do take umbrage with Robert saying it is the sex discrimination act working in favour of women. Does he understand the word 'discrimination'? That's why it's supposed to work in favour of women! But that doesn't make it discrimination against men - Richard. And finally, Gerry. I think if you were paid almost 40% less than your female colleagues, you might feel a bit whiney. But perhaps you should consider that women aren't undervaluing themselves, rather they are persistently finding themselves undervalued by their employers.
Siobhan, UK

Many of my male colleagues earn more than me for doing the same job as me - why on earth bring sexism into this debate? People earn different salaries for different reasons, I do not believe that sex is an issue here. I would be happy to pay a woman the same, if not more, than a man - they seem to be far more efficient than their male colleagues!
Will Faulkner, Hale, Cheshire, UK

On the face of it this seems like a great breakthrough

Katherine, UK
On the face of it this seems like a great breakthrough; but I suspect that many companies would simply publish generalised pay scales, sub-categorise them by percentage of men/women within that scale, and then say they've complied. If specific salaries and the sex of the individual are actually known within the company, that has to be a good thing. There's no reason why people shouldn't know what their colleagues are paid, within reason. The news can get around anyway; if its policy then at least wild rumours will be less likely!
Katherine, UK

How quaint that people imagine that their earnings are such a big secret in our modern world. Where I work, everyone knows (or can easily find out) the grading of every job and therefore knows fairly precisely how much everyone else earns. Isn't this the case everywhere now?
Andy Richards, UK

What about an employer's obligation to protect all personal employee information in line with the Data Protection Act? I object to other people seeing my salary and I object to my employer submitting this information to someone I work with and effectively compete against.
Maria, UK

It seems a fair comment to allow this, however, some companies also use any excuse to not give male workers the pay that their peers are on. For example, they transferred to a new post just days before the increase was agreed for everyone else, and it has taken one person I am aware of, nine months to find out that they, as a specialist, are getting paid 4k less than comparable peers who are not specialists. In this case an increase in visibility for males and females would be a benefit. It works for all employees, not just one group.
Tim, UK

In Norway, you can look up a register of pay bands for all occupations. It should be the same here. How can young people make an informed career decision if they don't know what pays well and what doesn't ?
Blewyn, UK

There is a difference between men and women

Anthony, England
There is a difference between men and women. Men are out there to beat another man. They like to do 'deals' in which they come out on top. This can be seen in all sorts of 'male' situations such as playing chess or poker. Women try to be 'fair' but unfortunately for them it always makes them worse off. Sorry ladies, you'll always end up paying twice as much for your car repairs as men do. Unless the government legislates for that as well.
Anthony, England

Yes, and one can hope it will make a difference.
Donna Stainfield, Canada

If this new legislation is for equality reasons then that is fine by me. And if it is, then I should be able to check the salary of a female colleague with the same/similar role to make sure she is not getting paid more than me. Or as I suspect, is this just more anti-male legislation?. And if it is, do I have the right under the data protection act/human rights act to stop female colleagues snooping into my salary arrangements?. I doubt it.
Jason, Manchester,England

I am strongly in favour of equality. This is because I am a businessman, and any true businessman knows that hiring the best candidates regardless of gender or anything else, leads to the highest profits. So I oppose this idea on two grounds, firstly because it is unfair to men's privacy, and secondly if other companies underpay their female staff it will make it easier for more enlightened rivals to hire them!
Guy Hammond, England

There are many reasons why women earn on average less than men and the vast majority of them have nothing to do with evil men trying to keep them "in their places" and everything to do with simple facts. Another, and most obvious reason, is the relative dedication to careers the sexes show. Simply put men are more career orientated than women. This is not a criticism but a statement of fact. Men will far more readily put their careers before starting and raising a family than women will. In a household after a child is born if someone decides to give up work to look after the child, 90+% of the time it is going to be the woman. Until these fundamental differences between the sexes are eliminated then we will always have an imbalance between salaries, and no amount of stupid legislation like this will help.
Alistair Strachan, Northern Ireland

This is nothing more than another example of political correctness

Paul, England
This is nothing more than another example of political correctness. It is no business of anyone else how much I earn. If one of my female colleagues demanded to know my salary because she thought I might be earning more than her, and if my employer gave her that confidential information, I would consider that my Human Rights had been infringed and I would seek appropriate legal redress against both of them and against the UK government.
Paul, England

I am a great believer in equality between the sexes, but this should mean men and women being treated equally, not women being given special rights and privileges. If women are to be given the right to see their male colleagues salaries, all employees should be given the same right.
John, UK

Surely it would be more sensible and less intrusive if the salaries were disclosed to a third (impartial) party in the event of a dispute. If the third party had the power to enforce any increase if the situation was found to be unfair this would maintain some degree of privacy. Forcing an employee to disclose their salary is 'punishing' the employee, not the discriminating employer.
Jeni Lennox, UK

Our culture of being coy about our salaries is to our employers' advantage. In the public sector you occupy pay bands based on experience and performance; most of us in the private sector negotiate our salaries. This privacy has the effect that many people may well not negotiate hard enough to get the salary they deserve. It would be interesting to see if such a trait cuts across gender - in countries where people are in general more open about what they earn, are inequalites such as these so pronounced?
Michael, UK

I run a City software development business. Both the City and software development are talent hungry free markets. If I thought I could reduce my unit labour costs by 18%, I should employ only women and make a killing. Some time ago some American banks did this successfully in Tokyo. But I doubt the opportunity exists in London.
Michael Grazebrook, UK

Women should be paid less

Emma, UK
Women should be paid less because they are less capable particularly in manual jobs. Woman also have sick leave and spend most of the working day chatting to friends.
Emma, UK

Any situation should be exposed where people are paid differently for doing identical jobs - whether because of their sex, or the equally common reasons of nepotism and favouritism. The right to demand to know a particular person's salary is problematical; better, as others have said, for a comany to have an open and accountable salary policy that applies to everyone.
Ray Girvan, UK

No absolutely not. Today, people negotiate their own salary and that should be between them and their employer. If someone is doing a good job, they should be rewarded respectively, not just because another member of staff at a similar level gets more pay. Most companies today keep salaries highly confidential for this reason. Why do you think people threaten to resign? Because it can often result in a huge salary increase that otherwise would not be offered. It would be madness to subsequently offer this across the board.
Nick Jones, UK

I have a very silly question, but how can it be that for equal positions, women get paid less than men? Surely the employers do not lower their offer when they see the most successful applicant is a woman? Or is it? In any case women should not be told such things, at least until their salaries are equivalent.
Michael Blatt, UK

Sounds like one for the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg! As a man I want to now know the pay of every female here at work.
Julian Sims, UK

We too have a policy where we are discouraged from discussing our salaries. As far as I know male and female employees are paid the same here but I think it is because the company is embarrassed at the pitiful level of remuneration generally within the company. It's sad that employees of a unique world-class organisation usually have to take on second jobs of they have mortgages. This is forbidden in the employment contract but usually ignored, if salary details are to be generally known, and I can't see why not, it shouldn't be because of gender divides but in an atmosphere of openness.
Jeff Dray, England

See also:

17 Oct 01 | Business
Ministers urged to boost women's pay
17 Oct 01 | Business
Women bosses an endangered species
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