Stop Asking Female Interviewees How Much They Earn Says UK Charity

Monday, December 27, 2021

Companies are being urged to stop asking interviewees about their previous salary, over concerns it keeps women earning less than men, a charity has said.

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, said this practice is particularly pointless in London, where four out of ten people lie about their previous earnings – the highest proportion of any region in the country.

Equal Pay Day is a national campaign led by Fawcett Society in the UK. It marks the day where women effectively on average, stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average pay of men and women within a particular group or population.

Fawcett uses the mean, full-time, hourly gender pay gap for the UK to calculate the gender pay gap for Equal Pay Day which this year is 11.9%, an increase from 10.6% last year.

As part of this year’s Equal Pay Day 2021 campaign, the Fawcett Society is calling on employers to take the #EndSalaryHistory pledge: stop asking new recruits how much they were paid in their previous jobs.

Asking for salary history is a typical recruitment practice that bakes in gender, race, and disability inequality.

It is a self-perpetuating system that allows for biases. Rather than offering a salary based on skills, experience, and performance, but on an individual perceived worth and negotiating skills.

#EndSalaryHistory is a grassroots campaign, started by Fawcett East London.

It was sparked after conversations within the group highlighted the impact of the salary history question on women’s ability and confidence to negotiate better pay.

Their latest research, explores what people think about salary history: 

  • 61% women who have been asked about salary history say it damaged their confidence to negotiate for better pay
  • 58% of women said it made them feel like their low past salary was coming back to haunt them
  • Just a quarter (24%) of people feel that pay should be based on past salary, compared to 80% for their skill and responsibilities and 77% for the value of the work they do.

There is unmistakable evidence to show that ending the recruitment practice works to tackle pay inequality – it is a simple, low-cost step that organisations can take to close their gender pay gap.

Why should employers stop asking salary history questions?

Employers can be a champion for equal pay by ending the practice of asking for salary history.

It is a simple measure to implement and importantly, it works.

Whilst it will not end the gender pay gap on its own, it will make real difference to tackling pay inequality.

Many employers do not realise that by asking for someone’s salary history, they are perpetuating the gender pay gap.

Ending salary history in your organisation will:

  • Offer a straightforward way to demonstrate your commitment to equality to your employees
  • Make you a more attractive organisation to work for – research shows that women take the gender pay gap into account when considering applying
  • Provide a low- to no-cost, evidence-led way to improve your gender pay gap reports.

While some employers do use salary questions for other purposes, like benchmarking, research shows that they are an unreliable source of information because applicants are not always truthful in their responses.

The findings are part of its #EndSalaryHistory campaign which was launched by the Fawcett Society’s East London branch, after its members became increasingly concerned about this recruitment practice.

Shobaa Haridas, from East London Fawcett, who started the grassroots campaign, said: “Closing the gender pay gap has often been framed as an individual endeavour with calls for women to negotiate better or having employees undergo unconscious bias training.”

“But this framing ignored bias baked within the system.”

“We started this campaign to shine a light on this unquestioned recruitment practice,” Haridas added.

One of the companies joining the campaign is Ikea, who say the campaign is “a crucial move to prevent discrimination of underrepresented groups who far too often are paid less by employers.”

The #EndSalaryHistory pledge asks employers to commit to three simple things:

  • To not solicit current salary information from prospective employees in any manner including application forms, job interviews and portals.
  • To review all background and candidate screening software to ensure that they do not ask for previous salary information.
  • To seek to employ other methods to negotiate salary instead of depending on past salary information.

Head to the End Salary History pledge: