London firm revamps pay by letting staff set salaries

LONDON Against a backdrop in Britain of gender pay gap and ongoing dispute over earnings, the staff at one London company are helping one another set salaries.

Betting firm Smarkets has adopted a radical pay transparency policy, through which its staff can see their colleagues' salaries and have pay rise requests endorsed by peers.

"Most people get what they ask for," said Ms Angeline Mulet-Marquis, a software engineer at Smarkets.

In a company where increases of 10 to 30 per cent are common, Ms Mulet-Marquis received the 12 per cent rise she asked for - as all her colleagues could see on the internal website.

At Smarkets, recently graduated engineers are paid a salary of around £45,000 (S$82,700), which increases to a six-figure package for highly qualified senior engineers.

Despite London's reputation as a hub for start-ups and a global business centre, such openness about salaries is rare in the British capital.

Within view of the city's famous Tower Bridge, the Smarkets office boasts added perks such as a team of chefs to make lunch each day, a foosball table and video games to keep staff happy.

Ms Susana Pinto oversees Smarkets' biannual pay reviews, through which employees ask around five peers for feedback and a suggested pay increase that they can take forward.

"It is not just a matter of saying, 'Hey, I think you are great.' It is actually going to be probed," Ms Pinto said of the feedback provided.

Further talks and comparisons to industry data determine the final pay increase, although if an employee is still not happy, he can set his own salary.

Such a move is said to be rare, however, as employees are well aware they will have to face their colleagues who will know they have gone against their advice.

"The good thing about the fact that our salaries are transparent is that they, by default, keep the company fair," said Ms Pinto.

Despite the success of pay transparency at Smarkets, which has around 100 staff, a number of employees said they were unsure the same approach would work for large companies or different industries.- AFP