This article was originally published in The MJ.
‘What is your current salary?’ A common question asked by prospective employers here, but an illegal question in a growing number of US states and counties across the pond.
We know the gender pay gap is bad for the sector, and society, because many women are working below their skill level.
Councils that treat staff fairly enjoy a happier workforce, greater productivity, more innovation, higher retention, and a positive image. Avoiding enquiring about someone’s current salary leads to a fairer offer, reduces discrimination and tackles the gender pay gap head-on.
There is currently no legislation in the UK preventing employers asking about current earnings, but councils could get ahead of the curve and help break the cycle of gender pay inequality. It goes beyond gender, of course, and pay inequality can be found in ethnicity, class, disability and further still.
Those relocating from a less expensive area to somewhere where the cost of living is higher, a particularly interesting dynamic in the current climate, can also be disadvantaged by the practice of basing a salary offer upon someone’s previous earnings.
There is so much good work being done on equality, diversity and inclusion as councils strive for ever more inclusive practices, but biases and inequalities can be inherited from other employers and the whole thing perpetuates itself.
Focusing on salary expectations rather than salary history is less than optimal. Historically underpaid people may undervalue themselves and gender differences can exist in assertive negotiation too. But it is surely a fairer approach.