Brits still too shy to talk pay

Fewer than a quarter of people have ever asked their boss for a pay rise - and surely now's not the time to turn over that particular leaf...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 10 Nov 2011

It seems shyness runs deep when it comes to talking cash, even at a time when, according to a survey by Scottish Widows, only 43% of UK workers are happy with the amount they're earning.

The survey comes in the wake of this week’s Chartered Management Institute survey which found that the gender pay divide is as wide as ever, with women executives earning a whopping £10k a year less than their male counterparts. Apparently 49% of people found the topic of salary too awkward to discuss even with colleagues. No surprise then that the CMI is saying it’ll take 100 years to achieve equal pay for female bosses: if they don't know how much everyone else is earning, then it's hard to know they should be asking for more.

There are, of course, other factors at play too. Around 28% of men said they have approached their employer about a salary increase, compared to only 18% of women. So where’s the egg and chicken here? Are women not getting pay increases because they’re too shy to ask? Or are they not asking because there’s simply no chance of getting one? 11% said embarrassment was the main reason they lack the courage to request a pay rise while 8% said they feared rejection.

Of course, if everyone was more happy to disclose what they get, that would be one major step in ensuring everyone got the same. But in an era in which budgets are almost universally tight and often being slashed, we can imagine this is perhaps not the time to sell people on the idea of openly disclosing how much, or little, of that is going into their pocket, no matter how much it may contribute to a fairer share for others.

You'd have to be brave to be approaching the boss for a pay rise in the current climate. But if bosses now fear a glut of incredibly open employees beating a path to their door, eager to talk salary, they perhaps needn't worry: 27% of workers refuse to discuss their finances even with their family. Which is surely taking the concept of British reserve to an unhealthy extreme...

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