Pay & Salary Structures

We have a wide experience in designing pay and salary structures not only to match the needs and culture of your company, but also to conform to Equal Pay Audit standards.

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What are Pay Structures or Salary Structures?
Pay structures, also known as salary structures, set out the different levels of pay for jobs, or groups of jobs, by reference to:

  • their relative internal value, as established by job evaluation
  • external relativities, via market rate surveys
  • where appropriate, negotiated rates for the job

What are the main characteristics of Pay Structures?

  • indicate rates of pay for different jobs
  • provide scope for pay progression via performance, competence, contribution, skill or service
  • contain pay ranges for jobs grouped into grades, individual jobs or job families.

Why do organisations need Pay structures?

  • establish a logically-designed framework within which equitable, fair and consistent reward policies can be implemented
  • determine levels of pay for jobs and people
  • basis for the effective management of relativities
  • help monitor and control the implementation of pay practices
  • communicate the pay opportunities available to employees.

The most important types of pay structure, or salary structure, are:

  • Graded structures – a sequence of overlapping job grades into which jobs of broadly equivalent size are allocated. Each grade has a range, the maximum of which is usually 20 to 50% above the minimum.
  • Broadband – similar to conventional graded structures, but with far fewer and far wider bands. The maximum of the band can be 100% or more above the minimum.
  • Job Family Structures – Each job family has a different graded structure. Jobs are allocated to a job family based on activities carried out; skills and competencies e.g. Information Technology is a perfect example of a job family for which there is usually a separate grade structure.

There are many other types of pay structures and salary structures e.g. pay spines, benefit structures, spot rates, fixed rate, time rate. All of these pay structures will be looked at in more detail in the next chapter.


Each grade or band has a pay range or scale with a minimum and a maximum. It also has a reference point. The reference point is the market rate i.e. the going rate for the job in the market and is equivalent to the mid-point or the maximum of the range depending on the pay progression method used.


A number of companies refer to the reference point as 100% of the range and annotate other significant points of the range in percentage terms relative to the reference point i.e. the two ranges shown above might be annotated like this:


As you can see each position on the scale and therefore each salary within the scale, can now be referred to as a percentage. Some companies call this percentage a compa-ratio (comparative ratio) and it is a term widely used in Reward Management. It is the salary expressed as a percentage of the reference point, and therefore when it is calculated for one job or as an average for many jobs how far from the market you are paying people.


Remember, 100% is usually the reference point or the market rate for the job i.e. the rate of pay for a fully competent individual performing all aspects of the job well.

Generally, there are two main ways to progress through the range:

Old type – fixed incremental system


In this type there are usually annual increments, with perhaps some element of performance appraisal, so that the better you perform the greater the increment you receive and the faster you progress to the maximum of the scale. An employee starts at the bottom of the scale i.e. 67% compa ratio if they are new into the job and no previous experience. An experienced recruit would start at a position on the scale which was in line with existing staff of similar experience. An experienced, fully competent employee fulfilling all aspects of the job description should be paid around the maximum of the scale i.e. the going market rate for the job.

Newer type


As in the previous type of pay range, an employee would start at the bottom of the scale (in this case 80% compa ratio) if they were new to the job or had no previous experience. Likewise an experienced recruit would start at a position on the scale which is in line with existing staff of similar experience. A fully experienced employee, competent in all aspects of the job should be paid around the mid point which is the going rate for the job.

This type of pay range differs from the previous one now as it extends beyond 100%. Usually, organisations with this type of pay progression have some sort of paying for performance system, where people who continually exceed their performance targets could earn, in this example, 20% above the market rate for the job.
Differing rates of progression through the scale can depend on performance, contribution, stage of development, and the demonstration of skills and competencies.

Some companies only allow progression through the scale at the time of the annual salary review. Others also have mid-year review or review 6 months after recruitment or promotion.

There is a most interesting fact relating to the two examples of pay progression: if they were applied to two companies which use the same market rate for a particular job then the job holder in the company with performance pay has the potential to earn 20% more basic salary than the job holder in the company with annual increments. This is worth remembering when looking at the whole issue of market data and the ability to recruit and retain staff. Although both companies pay the same basic salary to a fully competent employee, the company with performance pay is more attractive to employees because they can potentially earn more with that company than with the company using annual increments.

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