Workplace rights: Pandora's payslip

Last May, the outgoing Italian government caused outrage by publishing all its citizens' earnings and tax contributions on the internet. The website was hugely popular for the 24 hours it remained live. Meanwhile, reveals the pay of thousands of employees in leading companies, but you have to submit your own salary to gain access. The site was set up in the US but is going global. Such developments reflect a growing debate over how far people's pay should be made public. In the UK, the Equalities Bill will contain measures to promote pay 'transparency', including a ban on gagging clauses that prevent employees from discussing their salary. But this is unlikely to have a major impact, given that secrecy over earnings is more of a British cultural taboo than a matter of contract. A more radical reform would be to introduce compulsory pay audits - as a means of tackling the gender pay gap - but the Government is shying away from imposing such requirements on the private sector. Any employers tempted to pre-empt the issue by publishing salaries like the Italian government should think carefully. They would almost certainly be in breach of data protection laws and confidentiality duties to their staff.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

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