A gender equality campaign group has urged employers not to ask candidates about their salary history as it believes this contributes to the gender pay gap.
A survey carried out by the Fawcett Society to mark Equal Pay Day today (18 November) – the annual day at which women effectively start to work for free because they are paid less than men on average – found that 58% of women and 54% of men felt that disclosing their previous pay to an employer meant they had been given lower wages than they would have otherwise been offered.
Sixty-one per cent of women said being asked about their previous salary had damaged their confidence to ask for better pay, compared with 53% of men.
The survey of 2,000 people also indicated that not asking for salary in a job interview could be beneficial for an employer’s brand. Sixty-three per cent of women and 58% of men would think more highly of an employer that did not ask for salary history.
Fawcett Society chief executive Jemima Olchawski said: “Asking about salary history can mean past pay discrimination follows women, people of colour, and people with disabilities throughout their career. It also means new employers replicate pay gaps from other organisations.
Gender pay gap
“Stopping asking is a simple, evidence-led way for organisations to improve pay equality – it’s good for women, employers and our economy.”
The campaign group said it works out when Equal Pay Day will fall based on the mean, full-time, hourly gender pay gap for the UK, which this year is 11.9% – an increase from 10.6% last year – according to Office for National Statistics data.
Last year, Equal Pay Day fell slightly later – on 20 November 2020 – suggesting that progress in closing the gender pay gap may have stalled this year. However, the Fawcett Society said furlough and data collection issues had affected calculations.
Equal Pay Day fell on 14 November in 2019 and on 10 November in 2018, indicating that progress is being made over the longer term.
“The Covid pandemic has made collecting the gender pay gap data difficult and is likely to have had an impact on inequality in the labour market itself. We will need to wait until furlough, data collection and other issues have ended before we can be certain of what has happened,” said interim CEO Felicia Willow.
She said that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, particularly women of colour, disabled women and mothers.
“And now in addition to this, a widening gender pay gap paints a worrying picture. The government needs to take bold action, from improving childcare provision, making flexible working available to everyone, and tackling the rising cost of living,” she added.
The Fawcett Society also wants to see the government requiring mandatory action plans from employers.
Be clear about salary
Ben Gateley, CEO and co-founder of Charlie HR, agreed that organisations shouldn’t use candidates’ previous salaries to determine what to pay them and should be clear about how the role they are applying for is remunerated.
“Employers should think about what someone is worth in their organisation, and what type of organisation they want to be, when it comes to renumeration – do they want to pay top, mid or low wages? It’s important to be up front about what that is rather than trying to get away with paying the minimum salary someone will accept which happens far too often,” he said.
“By low-balling candidates using their previous salary, which often is what they’re looking to move upwards from, you’re also signalling to them what sort of company you are – that you don’t go above and beyond for your employees and that you don’t necessarily value them as highly. It sets the tone for the rest of your working relationship.
“Asking for previous salary amounts also rewards the most extroverted and outspoken people, which can be detrimental to people who aren’t that personality type. Research has shown us time and again that women often suffer in salary negotiations.”
Address skills gaps
Dr Ann Limb, chair of City & Guilds, said getting more women to fill critical skills gaps would help narrow the gender pay divide, as well as help with economic recovery and provide diverse perspectives within organisations.
We need to start by offering better career advice and guidance to girls from primary school age onwards. This includes an improved careers service for women who want or need to retrain later in their careers” – Dr Ann Limb, City & Guilds
“Despite economic recovery creating more jobs in high-paying sectors such as digital, construction and transportation, women are still being left behind. While new career opportunities are being created, women are significantly underrepresented in these sectors due to the fact that boys are generally encouraged to take STEM routes whilst girls are not,” said Limb.
“In order to get back on the path to progress, we need to start by offering better career advice and guidance to girls from primary school age onwards. This includes an improved careers service for women who want or need to retrain later in their careers.
“With our recent research finding that 59% of women have not received any training in the past year, it’s vital we provide equal opportunities for women to upskill and reskill to empower them to transition into industries of growth.”
Darren Hockley, managing director at risk management business DeltaNet International, said that organisations must ensure they are compensating employees based on their skill set.
“Educating leadership teams on diversity, equity and inclusion, and unconscious bias is paramount,” he said. “Addressing diversity issues at the core and building robust principles will enable organisations to create a culture where intolerance and discrimination are impermissible. From changing the way organisations recruit, to writing job descriptions, only this culture-shift will allow organisations to establish equal pay between all genders.”