It was once common for organizations to create compensation scales based on the location of an employee, but this practice has been on its way out the door and should continue to be.  


First of all, basing compensation on the geographic location of employees can perpetuate economic inequality. When people in different locations are paid differently for the same job, it can reinforce existing economic disparities between regions. For example, if someone living in a rural area is paid less than someone in a city for the same job, it can make it harder for the rural worker to achieve financial stability and security. 


Geo-based compensation can discourage people from living in certain areas. If a person knows they will be paid less for living in a certain location, they may be discouraged from living there, even if it is where they would prefer to live. This can limit the pool of available talent for jobs in that area and can hurt the local economy. 


Location based compensation pays people based on geographic location, not on the value the employee brings to an organization. This is inequitable. 


It is difficult to adjust an employee’s pay if they move to a city that has been considered to have a lower cost of living. In this case, the employer would have to reduce the employees’ pay and the reduction of pay is not advisable in most cases. 


Fair implementation of geo-based compensation is difficult. Deciding the proper compensation for a given location can be challenging, as the cost of living can vary greatly even within the same city or region.  


Geo-based compensation can also incentivize employers to source employees from areas with lower costs of living. If employers are incentivized to find employees in areas with lower costs of living, it can further exacerbate existing economic disparities between regions, and can make it more difficult for people in high cost of living areas to find well-paying jobs. But ultimately, this practice causes exploitation of employees who live in lower cost of living regions.  


In addition, this geo-based compensation approach can create a toxic work environment by breeding envy, resentment, and attrition. Employees may feel undervalued and unfairly compensated, which can lead to disengagement, reduced productivity, and resignation. 


Overall, basing compensation on where a person lives is a complex and controversial issue, with both potential benefits and drawbacks. To address these issues, organizations should consider a more comprehensive approach in determining employee compensation, including factors such as skills, experience, performance, and market rates. This approach can better reflect individual contributions and ensure that compensation is fair and equitable across the organization, regardless of location. Employers must consider the impact of their compensation policies on their employees and the broader communities in which they are embedded and strive for fairness and equity in their compensation practices. 


When you compensate your employees based on their value and contribution, you build a foundation of trust, loyalty, and equity. Isn’t it time to re-evaluate how we think about pay? 


We’d love to hear your insights and experiences with geo-based compensation. Send us an email! Interested in seeing more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about trends and best practices in human resources and business operations for nonprofits and small businesses.