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Occupational pay comparisons – easier said than done?

Findlay, Jeanette and Findlay, Patricia and Stewart, Robert (2014) Occupational pay comparisons – easier said than done? Employee Relations, 36 (1). pp. 2-16. ISSN 0142-5455

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The purpose of this paper is to analyse the challenges in undertaking occupational pay comparisons and why this matters for evidence-based reward management, union bargaining strategies and perceptions of pay equity. The paper draws on the extant literature on pay and undertakes detailed quantitative analysis of teachers pay in Scotland relative to teachers elsewhere in the UK, graduates and other professional occupations in the private and public sectors. The key finding of this paper is that alternative ways of analysing pay comparability produce significantly different outcomes – occupational pay comparisons require the identification of an appropriate comparator and appropriate measures of pay and hours, yet this is not straightforward. Different approaches to comparability may lead to key stakeholders holding widely differing views about pay equity, with employment relations implications. Quantitative analyses of pay using large-scale survey data are crucial to understanding relative occupational pay. However, quantitative analyses cannot provide in-depth and nuanced understanding of the nature of particular occupations. Moreover, the paper focuses at the occupational level and does not assess individual employee characteristics that may influence pay. These findings should inform employers (especially HR managers), employees and unions on pay policy, pay settlements and bargaining strategies. There is relatively little contemporary literature on the importance of, and challenges in undertaking, occupational pay comparisons.