Fixer: Employee is vocal over alleged ethnicity pay gap

I want to do what's right for staff as well as what works for the company

A manager at my company, who is black, is becoming increasingly agitated over a pay disparity between her and the other manager in her team, who is white. It’s true she and her colleague have the same job title; however, the other employee has more experience and handles some of the more high-level work because of this. We’ve tried to explain this, but she maintains it’s unfair and thinks we’re being racist. I’m worried about reputational repercussions even though I believe the company is in the right. What should we do?

I would encourage you to challenge your own view of the company being right. Number of years doesn’t necessarily mean more experience, so look at the quality of the experience. Also, ask yourself if the value of the extra responsibilities really justifies the difference. 

Checking what extra work or responsibility the employee who has raised the issue is doing would make sense, to ensure you are rewarding them fairly. If you have an internal job evaluation process, updating both job descriptions and conducting this exercise would go some way to giving an answer. However, given the dissatisfaction from the employee so far, you may want to engage an external company to provide an objective job evaluation service. If the outcome supports your current view, this could help explain the situation to the employee. If the outcome goes against your position, it is only right to be transparent with the employee by acknowledging the situation and reward them appropriately. 

More broadly, it would be good to review how transparent your pay and reward principles are. I would recommend implementing an internal job evaluation process to help reduce the chance of future issues such as this. If you were to adopt ethnicity pay reporting, which is not mandatory, this would show your commitment to tackling this issue organisationally, as well as helping you to address any gaps. The CIPD has useful guidance on this here

An experienced HR professional, Idris Arshad is currently a people and inclusion partner at south-east London-based hospice St Christopher’s. He has previously worked with a number of faith-based charities, as well as with housing and homelessness organisations, and also lectured on a part-time basis at London Metropolitan University. He was recently mentored as part of CIPD’s Aspiring HR Director Mentoring programme. 

His replies are written in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views of People Management or the CIPD, nor are they a substitute for professional legal advice. Not all queries submitted can be answered, and personal replies are not possible. To pose an anonymous query, visit