You can’t stop employees discussing their pay

May 9, 2018

You can’t stop employees discussing their payImage GaudiLab / Shutterstock, Inc
If you’re British, you probably don’t like talking about your salary in public. It’s one of those ‘Very British Problems’ – you know, like not quite catching somebody’s name, and spending the rest of your life addressing them as ‘hey you’.

But no matter how much your employees might hate discussing salary, if they want to do so, then as an employer, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop them.

Why would an employer want to prohibit discussion of salary?

There are lots of reasons why employers might want to prohibit the discussion of salary amongst employees. For example, if you are shamelessly trying to pay different people wildly different salaries, for performing the same job (which, in itself, is likely to be illegal under the Equality Act).

But even if you aren’t purposefully trying to pay employees unfairly, it can still be a kick in the teeth for a co-worker to find out that somebody with a similar job role is making more money than they are. Plus, when people talk about salary, it can create rumours and gossip, which isn’t often great for office productivity.

So I can understand why you might want to stop employees discussing their pay. You probably have other reasons, too – and you’re welcome to explain these in the comments below. But the fact remains that it is illegal to stop employees from sharing details of their pay.

Equality Act 2010

As well as preventing employers from paying men and women different wages for the same work, the Equality Act 2010 covers what you can and cannot do in regards to people talking about their salary.

The Equality Act 2010 stops you from putting clauses in that prohibit discussion of salary. The clause is found in Part 5, Chapter 3: Disclosure of Information, and states the following acts as protected:

  1. Seeking a disclosure that would be a relevant pay disclosureBasically, wanting to tell somebody about your salary.
  2. Making or seeking to make a relevant pay disclosureOr in other words, actually telling somebody about your salary.
  3. Receiving information disclosed in a relevant pay disclosureEssentially, letting somebody else tell you about their salary.

Therefore, if you discipline somebody for sharing their salary, you could end up in trouble yourself. You can’t even add it as a clause to your employment contract, because it would not be enforceable.

Can you ever discipline an employee for sharing their salary details?

There could be some circumstances where salary disclosure forms part of another offence. If somebody is using salary disclosure as a way to bully their colleagues, then of course this behaviour is inappropriate, and you would likely discipline the offender.

For example, Employee A might be making Employee B feel small, by constantly bragging about his or her salary, or something of the sort. But the discipline would be on different grounds – not literally because the employee had disclosed their salary.

I hope this has helped you to learn something new about the disclosure of salary. If you still have questions, pop them in the comments and I will aim to find an answer.

Stay ahead with HR

Get free HR insights, expert tips and exclusive interviews, and start making more impact at work

Please enter a valid email address

See People HR in action

View our short video demo

Get started absolutely free

No credit card required

Talk with an expert to learn how People HR could help your organisation