I've just returned from a week's holiday with a group of university friends. We have known each other longer than I care to remember and we chatted about all sorts of things over late night beers and cocktails, but I couldn't tell you with any certainty what one of them earns. It's just not something you talk about. Perhaps that's fair enough among a group of friends with very different careers, but it may not be such a healthy approach in the office.
Knowledge is power. If you know what your colleague is earning you can gauge whether you are being fairly paid and what you should be asking for in any salary negotiations. There are lots of factors to take into account of course - you may be earning less because you have 10 years less experience - but it will give you an idea of any pay discrepancies and whether they can be justified.
Very few employers are open about salaries and some still include pay secrecy clauses in contracts. However, these clauses are unenforceable against employees who make or solicit a "relevant pay disclosure". In other words employers can't stop you trying to find out whether you are being discriminated against in terms of pay. So, as an example, if you are a male employee and a female colleague asks you how much you earn because she thinks she is being discriminated against, you can't be disciplined for providing that information. Similarly, if you think you are receiving less pay than a male comparator you can ask them what their salary is. They don't have to tell you of course. But they can't be gagged by their contract.
Perhaps it's time to talk about pay instead of Brexit next time you are catching up with your colleagues in the pub.
I do believe that being more open about pay might reduce pay disparities. Silence breeds inequality. Being embarrassed to talk about money is so British, and our squeamishness only holds us back