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My Colleague Was Paid More Than Me: A Case Study

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Colleague Salary Job Promotion Position

The complex issue of working rights is an endless quest for fairness in the workplace. What makes this seemingly obvious requirement so tricky is that different people have their views on what makes something ‘fair’.

Discrimination Laws are there to help us understand what the ‘official line’ is on fairness in the workplace, so it is always a good idea to appreciate what the current legal position is on any work place issues.

For training manager Liz Garcia, 32, she felt a bit confused as to what the legal position is when she experienced what she considered to be discrimination in the workplace, albeit for an issue which is not yet clearly identified within employment law.

Three UK Offices with Training Managers

Liz told us, “I work at a UK firm of IT consultants and there are three major offices – one in London, one in Manchester and another in Edinburgh. I’ve worked here for five years and have gradually worked my way up from HR assistant to training manager for the London office. My role includes recruitment for senior IT staff and both group and one to one training. It’s a really challenging role and I am the most senior person in the training department in London.”

The issue of workplace fairness and pay differences came when the company decided to merge the Manchester and Edinburgh offices. Liz’s counterparts in each of these offices were well known to her, as they all regularly met up to discuss training programmes.

Liz continued, “The three of us would often be emailing each other to ask advice about a particular person or training issue. I felt like we were all supporting each other, although there was an implied seniority as I worked at the London head office, where all the directors and senior management were based, so new directives were often passed to the other training managers through me.”

When it was announced that the two Northern offices would be merging, Liz and her two colleagues were asked if they wanted to apply for the position of training manager for the new office. Unaware that there would be any problem, Liz and her colleagues talked about the possible position at their next meeting – a training course in London the next week.

The Realisation of a Difference in Salary

Liz continued, “While we were all aware that we were not supposed to discuss our employment contracts with each other, when we went out for a drink after the course we got talking about the merger and whether or not we were going to put ourselves up for it. We had each been sent the job description for the new role and I saw that the salary was five thousand pounds more than my current salary. Over a glass of wine, my colleague mentioned that she wasn’t sure about applying as it was only three thousand pounds more than her current salary, for a lot more responsibility.”

Liz was fuming when she realised the difference in salary, even though she had responsibility for more employees and was based in central London. She spoke to her boss and explained her frustration, but was simply told that her colleague had ‘negotiated a better pay rise at her last review”.

Liz said, “I felt undermined and frustrated that my skills and hard work were not recognised in the same way, so I decided there and then to start looking for another job.”

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