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What's pay secrecy and why should I care?

What is pay secrecy?

"Pay secrecy" is a nice way of saying that your employment contract prohibits you from discussing your pay, or sharing how much you’re paid, with your co-workers.

How do I know if I’m covered by pay secrecy?

Not every worker in Australia is restricted by pay secrecy – if you’re covered by an Award or an EBA, there probably won’t be a pay secrecy clause in your contract. Awards and EBAs usually have the different pay levels listed in them, along with the timing and amount of your pay rises and the loadings you should receive for working late nights, early morning, overtime, and public holidays. If you’re not sure, as always, you should give the Young Workers Centre a call.

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Why should I care about pay secrecy?

Reports have suggested that as many as half of all Australian workplaces have a pay secrecy policy. Studies have suggested that the gender pay gap is higher in workplaces with policies that prohibit workers from discussing and comparing their pay when compared to workplaces where workers aren’t subject to these kinds of restrictions.

Pay secrecy policies also make it harder for young workers to establish whether they’re the victims of wage theft or not. Pay secrecy makes it harder for young workers to find out if they’re being dudded when compared to their co-workers – and it makes it harder to find out the extent of wage theft in a workplace when people are too concerned about their jobs to speak up.

While pay secrecy clauses in agreements can stop you from talking to your co-workers, they can’t stop you from talking to your union or community legal centres like the Young Workers Centre if you suspect you’re being ripped off at work.

There’s also been talk of legislation to end pay secrecy clauses in all kinds of employment contracts – although that appears to have stalled since the last Parliament was dissolved for the election.

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