Should employers stop asking candidates what they’re currently being paid?
Most employers with a good grasp of employment law understand that there are certain questions that should not be asked during a job interview, for example, asking a woman if she has children or is planning to start a family. However, could it be discriminatory to ask a candidate what they are already being paid in their current role?
In a recent survey, they found that of 2200 working adults, 47% had been asked about past salaries during the recruitment process. 61% of women said that this question had an impact on their confidence to negotiate better pay.
In a recent interview with the BBC, the Fawcett Society called on employers to stop asking potential employees about salary history, in order to stamp out inequality for women, people of colour and those with disabilities.
The survey also found that both women and men felt that salary history questions meant that they ended up being offered a lower salary than they might otherwise have been paid.
The Fawcett Society’s findings come at a time when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently published its annual survey of hours and earnings. The ONS survey shows a large difference in the gender pay gap between employees aged 40 years and over and those aged below 40 (12% compared to 3%). So it is perhaps no coincidence that some women feel that they are being paid less than they would have been, had they not been asked about salary history.
Some business leaders feel that questions about previous salaries are legitimate and it’s not actually unlawful to ask this. Also, prospective employers need to have an idea of and manage salary expectations of candidates. However, it could be argued that by basing a job offer on current salary, for a woman, for example, because of the gender pay gap, the potential employer is perpetuating that gap.
According to reports on the Gov.uk website, there is currently a skills shortage in the UK, partly due to Brexit and also due to the pandemic, which is putting pressure on employers to pay more and to offer more attractive benefits in some sectors. According to the ONS there were 1.17 million job openings in October – almost 400,000 higher than before the pandemic.
In a recent article for the BBC, an analyst for the Chartered Institute of Professional Development said that in a candidate driven market, in addition to a competitive salary, staff are also wanting flexible working, opportunities to develop and grow their career and good management.
If it’s true that employers are struggling to recruit in the current climate, it might be difficult to get away with paying the absolute minimum and perhaps more pay transparency from employers will now be needed.
For any questions about discrimination, gender pay gap or other employment issues, please contact the Employment Team.