Campaigners urge bosses to stop asking job applicants for salary history – The Guardian

Asking about earnings discriminates against women and other groups, says Fawcett Society
Campaigners have urged employers to stop asking job applicants for salary history, saying it discriminates against women, people of colour, people with disabilities and shores up the gender pay gap.
A survey by the Fawcett Society to mark Equal Pay Day on Thursday – the date women effectively start to work for free because they are paid less than men on average – found that asking details about previous earnings is also unreliable because four in 10 working adults have lied about their past salary.
The Savanta ComRes survey of 2,000 workers found that 58% of women and 54% of men said that disclosing their past earnings meant they were offered a lower wage than they would have got otherwise, while 61% of women said being asked about their salary had damaged their confidence to ask for better pay, compared with 53% of men.
Asking people to disclose a previous salary compounds the gender pay gap and particularly discriminates against women who have had time out of the workplace to have children, said the organisation. It can also backfire: according to the survey, 63% of women and 58% of men would think more highly of an employer who did not ask for a previous salary.
“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,” said Jemima Olchawski, the Fawcett Society chief executive.
“Stopping asking is a simple, evidence-led way for organisations to improve pay equality – it’s good for women, employers and our economy.”
Fawcett calculates Equal Pay Day every year using the mean hourly pay gap for full-time workers from the Office of National Statistics. In 2021, that figure stands at 11.9%, up from 10.6% in 2020, although Covid and the impact of furlough data may have affected this year’s data. Over the past 10 years the gap has closed by 4%, progress the organisation describes as “glacial”.
At the current rate of progress it will take until 2050 to close the gender pay gap.
This year, the ONS reported that the gender pay gap among all employees was 15.4%, up from 14.9% in April 2020 but still down from 17.4% in 2019. The gender pay gap is higher among all employees than full-time employees because more women work in lower-paid part-time jobs – 37% of working women were part-time in August 2021, compared with 13% of men. There are 6.2 million female part-time workers compared with 1.8 million part-time men.
Research suggests that hopes for a post-pandemic flexible working revolution are fading. A recent report by the flexible working social enterprise Timewise, found that in 2021 three-quarters of jobs advertised in the UK did not offer any flexible working options, only 8% mentioned home-working and 10% offered part-time work. Flexible hours were offered in 3% of job adverts.
The study analysed 5m job adverts between January-April 2021 and 12- April to 31 August 2021.
The research found that part-time work and low pay were synonymous – 19% of jobs paying under £19k offered part-time work, with only 3% offering home working and 7% flexible work. For jobs paying more than £80k, only 3% of adverts offered part-time working, 14% offered home working and 10% offered some kind of flexible work.
Timewise CEO, Melissa Jamieson, said that many part-time workers wanted to work more hours and build better careers, but struggled to find flexible work to fit around caring responsibilities.
“If you really want to start tackling the gender pay gap – flex marks the spot, and part-time work in particular is critical to address,” she said. “In traditional roles many women end up feeling trapped and eventually leave, only to take a job beneath their level of skill and ability, because it’s the only kind of part-time work they can find.”


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