British workers say they have to swap firms to get a pay rise

A lack of transparency over salaries is making employees look for greener pastures elsewhere.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 21 Apr 2016

Still not quite sure what you're worth? You’re not alone. According to a new survey from job marketplace Glassdoor, polling 4,300 adults across seven countries, the majority of employees in the UK wish they had a better grasp of what fair pay actually is for their role, both at their company and in their local market.

Employers aren't that hot on sharing pay data internally, it seems (47% of employees globally said their firms didn’t share the information) but the fact that 57% of British workers felt they had to switch firms in order to make a significant change in their pay should set alarm bells ringing. This rose to 65% among younger employees (those aged 18-24), suggesting businesses may want to reconsider how upfront they are on pay if they want to hang on to promising staff. And how involved they are with staff training and development - if employees feel they have to move to get a pay rise, it raises questions about how they're being managed.

It sounds appealing in theory, but rolling out pay transparency could cause more trouble than it’s worth. What if, suddenly, individuals see they're being paid wildly different salaries for what amounts to very similar duties? There are all manner of considerations which play into what a salary is set at. While there are measurable attributes such as experience and skills, it's trickier to factor in something like industry competition and the hiring climate at the time. Disparities in pay won’t always be unfair and a transparent approach without this awareness could cause discontent and misunderstanding.

It’s also unlikely bigger businesses would be able to outline all the individual circumstances that contributed to someone getting a certain salary. It might be a more doable exercise for a start-up, but even then, you could restrict your own flexibility in the jobs market, unable to offer increased pay for a talented potential recruit. The war over talent remains a problem for firms of all sizes, but it can be particularly tricky for a start-up, without the financial clout or brand recognition to appeal to new hires.

While there are certainly good intentions behind the idea, pay transparency as a concept might not be as straightforward as employees think. They see it as helping businesses to become open books; their bosses will more likely see it as opening up a can of worms. 

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