Campaigners launch call to end salary history and tackle pay inequality

Initiative is based on research that found 60 per cent of women thought being asked about previous wages harmed their earning potential

Anastasiia_M/iStock/Getty Images

Two organisations are calling on businesses to end the practice of asking job applicants about their salary history as part of a campaign to tackle pay disparities.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Fawcett Society have teamed up to launch the End Salary History campaign, which aims to eradicate gender, ethnicity, and disability pay gaps.

Featuring a guide for recruiters on ending the practice, the initiative by the recruitment industry body and gender equality charity was based on Fawcett Society polling, which found almost three in five (58 per cent) women and more than half (54 per cent) of men felt that being asked about their previous earnings meant they were offered a lower wage than they might have been otherwise.

Government launches initiatives to ‘level up’ opportunities for working women

Disability pay gap widens compared to previous year, new data reveals

Would you send your white employees home an hour early?

Three in five (61 per cent) women and more than half (53 per cent) of men also said that being asked about their salary had harmed their confidence to ask for better pay.

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.” 

Shoesmith added that by signing the End Salary History pledge and producing the guide, they hope to help recruiters “understand the difference they and their clients can make by stopping asking salary history questions”.

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

The guide focuses on information on the workforce issues spurred by asking about salary history, and offers practical tips on how to address these problems. 

Commenting on the initiative, Social Market Foundation researcher Niamh O Regan said: “Prohibiting questions on salary history could be a good step towards addressing wage inequality, and the proposed guide makes a good case for recruiters on why they should stop asking.” 

“If a new salary is based on previous earnings, being underpaid in one role could lead to a lifetime of underpayment,” she added.

Katy Neep, gender equality campaign director at Business in the Community, said: “A person’s salary history does not reflect the knowledge, experience or skills they have or could bring to a future role. The practice of asking for a candidate’s salary history needs to stop and we are proud to endorse the end salary history campaign.”

The REC and Fawcett Society say the guide will help recruiters and their clients to tackle pay gaps, especially for already disadvantaged groups.

Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society, said: “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 discrimation and bias follows through from one job to the next, perpetuating gender, disability, and ethnicity pay gaps.”

At the same time, O Regan said that even though the new proposals could have a “significant impact” on new employees, or those moving to new roles internally, it will not necessarily address wage inequality among existing employees in an organisation. “For that we will need more decisive action from employers and the government,” she said.

Regarding further addressing the existing pay gaps, Neep advised that employers should focus on being transparent around pay. 

“This could be by sharing the pay package details during recruitment, conducting regular gender and equal pay audits of the organisation, and looking closely at any discrepancy between the salaries of part time and full time workers,” she said.

“They can also provide unconscious bias training to managers, which is especially important during recruitment and ahead of salary reviews,” she added.

The launch comes weeks after the government announced that it was setting up a pay transparency pilot, which requires companies to list salary details on job adverts and not ask about salary history during recruitment in order to “level up” opportunities for working women.