Original Research

Employee responses to pay transparency

Rosanna Stofberg, Calvin M. Mabaso, Mark H.R. Bussin
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 48 | a1906 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v48i0.1906 | © 2022 Rosanna Stofberg, Calvin M. Mabaso, Mark H.R. Bussin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 April 2021 | Published: 25 January 2022

About the author(s)

Rosanna Stofberg, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Calvin M. Mabaso, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mark H.R. Bussin, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Pay transparency is a controversial but understudied topic. The emerging research is developing theory and exploring the impact on organisational outcomes; however, our understanding of employees’ perceptions of and responses to pay transparency is limited.

Research purpose: This research study aimed to explore what employees understand of the term ‘pay transparency’ and how they respond to it.

Motivation for the study: This study contributes to a better understanding of how employees in South African organisations perceive pay transparency.

Research approach/design and method: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 employees of four organisations with different pay transparency practices. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Main findings: Employees in this study have diverse understandings and views of pay transparency and relatively low expectations of employers. However, they can thoughtfully conceptualise the potential risks and benefits of greater pay transparency. The metaphor of the sport fan is useful to explain this phenomenon – standing at the side-lines with strong opinions but removed from the action.

Practical/managerial implications: Understanding how employees perceive pay transparency can help employers and practitioners to navigate their pay transparency approach.

Contribution/value-add: As the only known qualitative study in the pay transparency field, this study gives unique insights into employees’ perceptions of and responses to pay transparency.


Keywords

pay transparency; pay inequality; qualitative research; thematic analysis; compensation; reward; South Africa

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