Stop asking about salary history, employers urged

By Mary-Ann Russon
Business reporter, BBC News

Published
Image source, Getty Images

UK employers should stop asking jobseekers about their previous salaries, a campaign group is urging.

The Fawcett Society says asking about previous pay when recruiting contributes to the gender pay gap, by keeping women on lower wages.

Its survey of 2,200 working adults found that 47% of people had been asked about past salaries.

Meanwhile, 61% of women said the question had an impact on their confidence to negotiate better pay.

The Fawcett Society's chief executive Jemima Olchawski told the BBC that unless more is done, the gender pay gap will not be closed until at least 2050.

"We're calling on employers to make a simple change and stop asking potential employees about salary history," she said.

"Evidence shows that this will help to stamp out pay inequality, not only for women but for people of colour, and people with disabilities."

The campaign group warned that asking prospective candidates about their salary history meant companies could end up replicating gender pay gaps from other organisations.

The survey also found that 58% of women and 54% of men felt salary history questions meant they were offered a lower wage than they might otherwise have been paid.

Only a quarter of people feel that pay should be based on past salaries, compared to 80% of respondents, who felt that their pay should be based on their skill and responsibilities.

The campaign group also found that 77% of people felt their salaries should reflect the value of the work they do.

The report added that the pace of change to close the gender pay gap was "glacial".

The Fawcett Society stressed that more needed to be done by the government and employers to tackle its causes, such as stamping out discrimination.

Improving transparency

Peter Cheese, head of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), agrees that setting pay grades based on what people were paid in previous jobs can "exacerbate the problem".

But he believed questions about previous salaries were legitimate.

"I'm not convinced that employers should never ask about previous pay because it's not an unnatural question to ask," he told the BBC.

"Indeed, prospective employees will tend to raise their expectations about pay and that's a perfectly natural question in the recruitment process."

He said that the issue was becoming prominent now because the UK was in a tight labour market with "upwards pressure" on pay.

"We need to be honest about that - if we think we can get away with paying the absolute minimum, we might be disappointed about our ability to recruit," Mr Cheese added.

"What we want is to encourage employers to be transparent about how they pay; the basis under which they pay and how that reflects things like market dynamics; and that they communicate that to their own organisation, as well as to external recruits."

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