Avoid salary history questions in recruitment, guide urges

Employers and recruiters should not seek salary history from job candidates in any manner, including by asking applicants about their current pay and for their desired salary, according to new guidance.

The End Salary History guide, produced by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and gender equality campaign group the Fawcett Society, says organisations will need to end the practice of asking salary history or expectations questions if they want to tackle gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

Basing salary offers on previous income “bakes in” inequality and perpetuates existing pay gaps, the guidance says.

The Fawcett Society found that 58% of women and 54% of men felt being asked about their past earnings meant they were offered a lower wage than they might have been otherwise. Another 61% of women and 53% of men said being asked about their salary had damaged their confidence to ask for better pay.

The guidance says those involved in sourcing, interviewing and hiring candidates should:

  • avoid any questions that may solicit current salary information from prospective candidates, including on application forms, in job interviews and on online portals
  • review all background and candidate screening software to ensure they do not ask for previous salary information
  • avoid sharing salary information volunteered by candidates and encourage employers to make salary offers based on different criteria
  • get clear salary brackets for roles from hiring managers, with clear information about what skills are needed to reach those salaries.

The guidance states efforts taken by 21 states or city governments in the US to ban salary history questions has resulted in reductions to organisations’ gender pay gaps. Effects range from closing 4.7% of the existing gender pay gap for all employees, to a 6.2% boost to women’s pay.

A pilot where employers list salary details on job adverts and stop asking candidates about their pay history was launched by the Government Equalities Office in March.

Kate Shoesmith, deputy CEO of the REC, said: “Not asking a candidate about their past earnings is a simple way to ensure everyone is being treated equally when they apply for a job, no matter what their background is. Research shows that this helps to narrow gender pay gaps.

“Equality, diversity and inclusion are hugely important issues for the REC, and we hope that by signing the End Salary History pledge and producing this guide, we can help recruiters to understand the difference they and their clients can make by stopping asking salary history questions.”

Fawcett Society CEO Jemima Olchawski said: “Asking a job candidate for salary history goes much deeper than an annoying or awkward conversation – it’s a uncomfortable question that in reality, keeps women on lower salaries. Women, people of colour and disabled people are much more likely to be paid less than men. So, when you ask about salary history, past pay discrimination and bias follows through from one job to the next, perpetuating gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps.”

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