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Nearly a fifth (18%) of workers have been told they’re not allowed to discuss their pay with co-workers, according to new TUC/GQR polling published today (Wednesday).

The TUC is calling for a ban on pay secrecy or ‘gagging’ clauses, which prevent workers from challenging unfair pay, discrimination and excessive top-to-bottom pay ratios.

The research also found that:

  • Half (50%) of workers don’t know what senior managers in their organisations are paid.
  • More than half (53%) of workers are not given information about other people’s pay in their organisation.
  • Fewer than one in five (18%) report that their workplace has a transparent pay policy, where salary details are available to everyone through an official source.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Pay secrecy clauses are a get out of jail free card for bad bosses.

“They stop workers from challenging unfair pay, allow top executives to hoard profits and encourage discrimination against women and disabled people.

“Talking about pay can feel a bit uncomfortable, but more openness about wages is essential to building fairer workplaces.”

What needs to change?

The TUC is calling on government to:

  • Ban pay secrecy clauses outright so that everyone can talk about their pay and other work benefits to anyone and for any reason.
  • Deliver stronger union rights so that trade unions can ensure transparent and fair processes for setting pay rates.
  • Commit to introducing the cutting-edge pay transparency measures being considered at European level.


Notes to editors:

- GQR Research conducted an online poll of 2,700 respondents aged 16+ in work in Great Britain, during 2-16 July 2019. Data are weighted to be representative of the national working population. For more information about GQR please visit:  

- The Equality Act 2010 already places restrictions on pay secrecy clauses, making them unenforceable if an employee discusses pay in order to find out if they are being less than colleagues for discriminatory reasons. But it’s clear that this isn’t stopping employers from telling people they can’t discuss their pay in the workplace.

- In some countries, including Sweden, Finland and Norway, everyone’s income tax returns are published and workers can find out what their colleagues earn. The European Union is considering trade-union-backed plans for new legislation on pay transparency as part of its commitment to reducing the gender pay, earnings and pensions gaps.

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

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