Do You Know How Much Your Colleagues Earn? Are Salaries Still So Taboo?

23 August 2017

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Is it common to talk about our pay in private? Most employees agree that salary details are a private matter and a very sensitive topic of discussion. Despite this, nearly three-quarters of respondents would want to know how much their work colleagues earn. The same applies to employees at all levels of management. And that's not all. Up to 62 per cent of people would also like to know how much their acquaintances, neighbours, friends and other people they meet on a regular basis earn.Up to 6 out of 10 people converse with their close friends about their salaries. This was the result of a survey conducted by the international salary portal Paylab.com, which determined people's attitudes towards their pay.

The survey was conducted on-line from May to June 2017 in nine European countries using a sample of 40,262 employees through local salary portals under the Paylab brand and with identical data acquisition methods. The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration. 

Salaries and wages remain a taboo subject in European countries. Companies usually try to keep pay details secret, and most bind their employees to confidentiality agreements regarding salary details in their employment agreements. Very few employers publish salary and wage details in their job adverts. The tools used to define employment matters and collective bargaining at the sector level do not operate in the same exact way in some countries. People typically use on-line salary portals to get a better idea of the salaries and compensation packages being offered on the market, as they allow them to anonymously check salary benchmarks from other employees with the same job in the region. People, have, however, become accustomed to sharing salary details with those closest to them. In the survey, up to 59 per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement that their friends and acquaintances know how much they earn.

salary talk discussion salary wage disclosure

attitudes to salaries paylab how much friends colleagues earn

The higher the income, the greater resistance to salary disclosure.

Paylab also attempted to determine if attitudes towards pay and salaries vary by income level. The survey showed that people with higher or lower incomes were roughly just as interested in the pay of others. However, employees who earn less than average in the country are much more open to discuss their income with their surroundings. People in management positions are the least likely to share any salary details. Only half the employees in lower and middle management and 39 per cent of top managers agree that those closest to them know how much they actually earn.

salary dislosure income level attitudes to salary

Closing the pay gap between men and women

Roughly the same portion of men and women were interested in knowing how much their colleagues earn. Women, of course, are most affected by salary inequity, generally called the gender gap. More initiatives continue to appear in Europe calling for salary disclosure to increase transparency, especially with respect to the gender pay gap. Brussels issued recommendations three years ago to strengthen the principles of equal pay for men and women, and many countries have been inspired by these regulations. Employees in some countries have already been granted the right to see just how much their colleagues earn. For instance, in Germany, only those working in companies with more than 200 employees have the right to ask about the earnings of their colleagues. People are free to request information on the pay of their colleagues from the tax authorities in Finland and employee salary details have long been accessible on-line in Norway. Read more about this topic in Paylab blog post.

Read more in our Paylab BLOG: Are companies prepared for salary disclosure?   

how much colleague earn survey opinion attitudes to salary

About the survey

The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration. The international Paylab portal conducted the survey from May to June 2017 via its nine local partner portals using identical data acquisition methods from a complete sample of 40,262 respondents: specifically in the Czech Republic (www.platy.cz,9,491 respondents), Finland (www.palkkadata.fi, 3,011 respondents), Croatia (www.mojaplaca.hr, 4,227 respondents), Lithuania (www.manoalga.lt, 4,173 respondents), Latvia (www.algas.lv, 4,026 respondents), Slovakia (www.platy.sk, 9,157 respondents), Poland (www.pensjometr.pl, 582 respondents), Slovenia (www.placa.si, 4,054 respondents) and Serbia (www.infoplate.rs, 1,541 respondents).


Daniela Beráková, Communication & Content Manager for Paylab.com

Profesia, s.r.o., Pribinova 19, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia

Tel.: +421 2 32 20 91 89, Mobile: +421 905 761 264, e-mail: [email protected]

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