The subject of how much you earn is often taboo amongst work colleagues but increasingly employees are wanting more transparency over pay levels, often because they want to check that they are being treated equally to their peers. So, can you ask your colleague how much they earn? 

Yes, usually it is up to you and your colleagues what information you share with each other. That said, there can sometimes be restrictions in place, with some employers trying to discourage such work chat by specifically including contractual clauses banning discussions about pay. However, such provisions are not always valid. 

The Equality Act 2010 states that pay secrecy provisions will be unenforceable to the extent that they prevent an employee seeking information to find out whether there is a pay discrimination issue. In other words, despite such a provision being in place, it will still be lawful for a female employee to ask a male colleague what they are earning if her intention is to find out whether there is any sex discrimination issue. However, it is likely to be unlawful where, say, colleagues are talking about pay generally without considering discrimination issues. 

Finally, if discussions about pay extend to external third parties (rather than just internal work colleagues), care must be taken to ensure that there is no breach of more general confidentiality obligations that might be in place.