Ask SheCanCode Anything: “My colleague is earning more than me”

Colleague earning more than me


Today, we’re delving into wage discrepancies, discussing salaries in the office and asking for a pay rise.

To help us answer these questions is coach, Fiona Hatton.

Fiona Hatton Coach at YoCo Studio

As a coach, Fiona supports women to live a happier life: through prioritising their wellbeing, doing more of what they love, and focusing on what really matters to them. She has worked with women who’ve gone on to change career, leave a toxic workplace, and make big life decisions about where (and how) they want to live. 

Join the Yoco Studio community for free resources, useful tips and offers. And head to the Yoco Studio Facebook group for regular ideas and activities to boost your wellbeing.

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Hi SheCanCode,

I’m hoping you can offer some advice. I have a colleague at work and I recently found out that they are earning a LOT more than I am.

For context, they work a similar job to myself, but I have more experience and more qualifications.

Officially, we’re not supposed to talk about what we earn in the office, and now I can see why. I am so angry and it’s affecting how I feel about my job and my relationship with my colleague.

How do I go about addressing this?

Thanks for your help!

Higher Salary Seeker


It feels so wrong to be paid less than someone doing a similar role, and I totally understand you’d be angry about it. I’ve done a bit of digging and I have a few questions for you to ask yourself before you decide your next steps.

What outcome do I want? 

As well as what you want to achieve in terms of your salary, think about the relationship with your colleague. You’ve mentioned that knowing they are being paid more is affecting how you feel about them. Is it important for you to stay on good terms? If so, what steps can you take to protect your relationship?

Next, take some time to consider whether the outcome is realistic, and what could get in your way – how could you overcome any blockers?

What are the facts?

I’ve used some advice from Acas, an independent body in the UK that gives employees and employers free, impartial advice on workplace rights, rules, and best practice, to pull together different ways to compare your pay with your colleagues.

Grade / pay band

Are you both operating at the same grade / pay band? Is there a pay scale and how is your place on that scale decided?

Pay break down

Can you break down your pay so that you can compare it more easily? For example, how much basic pay, overtime, or commission do you get? What about paid holidays, pension, and other benefits?

Role and responsibilities 

What’s in your colleague’s job description that could explain the difference in pay? Does length of service have any bearing on salary? How about experience and qualifications? 

Are there legal grounds to pursue this?

Now, I’ve done a bit of homework, and the amount of legal protection you have depends on where you’re writing from and who is being paid more. In the UK for example, by law, men and women must get equal pay for doing ‘equal work’, the same protections are there for disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. This may not be the same in other parts of the world, so do find out what’s in place where you are.

What are the next steps?

Once you have the facts, think about the options open to you. For example, how comfortable do you feel about speaking to your colleague about their pay and benefits vs. their role and responsibilities?

Or perhaps a chat with your line manager would work better for you? What would you feel most comfortable doing – and what is going to help you reach the outcome you’re working towards?

Where can I get advice and support?

If you decide to take this further, there may be times where a bit of extra support would be helpful. As well as approaching official bodies and perhaps getting legal advice, what could you do to take care of other parts of your life? When we’re going through a tough time, it’s very easy to neglect the things that could potentially help us through it. So ask yourself, what do I really enjoy and who do I love being with? And think about how you can bring a little more of that into your life.


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