Salary transparency is a generational issue

More than half of Danes talk about their salary with their colleagues. A new survey has found that the younger generations in the labour market in particular are open about their salary.

When the conversation in the workplace turns to what you get paid, the youngest employees between 18 and 34 are the most talkative. In contrast, their older colleagues between the ages of 50 and 70 are more likely to keep their paycheck a secret. 

A new survey by Analyse Danmark among 980 Danes in employment found that 54 per cent of all respondents talk to their colleagues about pay to some extent, while 45 per cent do not discuss salary at all. In the case of the 18-34-year-olds, approximately 7 out of 10 share their salary with their colleagues, while the same applies to only 41 per cent. of the 50-70-year-olds.

Malene Matthison-Hansen, Chairperson of the Council of Employees in IDA, believes that the younger generation's approach to openness about pay bodes well for the future.

"That is good news. It can hopefully help shake up the culture in the least transparent workplaces, so that openness about pay becomes a matter of course. Without transparency around salary formation and knowledge of what your colleagues get and why salary increases are awarded the way they are, you enter a dark room during salary negotiations. If there is no transparency, the management holds all the cards, while you as an employee are dealt a bad hand at the salary negotiation," she says.

The survey also shows that 7 per cent work in a workplace where rules have been formulated that prohibit employees from talking about pay. Such rules are against the Equal Pay Act. More than one in five also respond that it is seen as inappropriate to talk about pay in their workplace.

"It is a myth that your salary is a confidential agreement between you and your employer. According to the Equal Pay Act, you may share your salary information with your colleagues. IDA's legal advisers occasionally see cases where employers write confidentiality clauses into employment contracts. But that is illegal. No employer can demand that you keep quiet when the conversation turns to your salary," says Malene Matthison-Hansen.

Learn more about implementing pay transparency at your workplace

EU directive puts an end to secrecy

Earlier this year, an EU directive on pay transparency was introduced which must be implemented in Danish legislation by 2026 at the latest.

The directive, which IDA supports, will, among other things, mean that all companies must prepare a description of the objective gender-neutral criteria that form the basis of salary formation. And employees can demand to see these criteria as well as statistics for average salaries broken down by gender for employees who perform the same work or work of the same value.

The directive also contains obligations towards job applicants. Applicants are entitled to information about the starting salary or the salary range based on objective gender-neutral criteria for the position in question. In addition, companies will be prohibited from asking about the applicant's current salary or salary in previous employment.

"Regardless of whether an employer or a colleague is a supporter of openness about pay or not, there is legislation on the way that will do away with secrecy. And we would like to see the directive implemented in Danish legislation sooner than in 2026. Regardless, you might as well start adapting to the new times. We wholeheartedly support the directive on pay transparency, because openness about pay is by far one of the best tools to combat unequal pay. There is still far too much hush-hush about pay in far too many workplaces, and the sure losers are the salary earners," says Malene Matthison-Hansen.