Employers are being urged to stop asking jobseekers about their previous salary amid concerns it is keeping women on lower wages and contributes to the gender pay gap.
The Fawcett Society said asking about past salaries during recruitment was “pointless” because many people lied about what they previously earned.
The campaign group warned that asking about salary history helped to keep women on lower rates and contributes to gender pay gap, which it added showed no sign of closing.
The report was released to mark Equal Pay Day, the date when campaign groups say women effectively start to work for free for the rest of the year because, on average, they are paid less than men.
The Fawcett Society said three out of five women who have been asked about salary history believed it damaged their confidence to negotiate better pay, and it made them feel as though a low past salary was “coming back to haunt them”.
Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society chief executive, said: “At best salary history questions are annoying and our research shows asking them can damage an employer’s reputation.
“But it goes deeper than that – 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.
“On Equal Pay Day we’re calling on employers to commit to closing their gender pay and to stop asking about past salaries.”
The society said its survey of 2,200 adults suggested that only one in four felt 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.
The report added that the pace of change to close the gender pay gap was “glacial”, adding that more needed to be done by the government and employers to tackle its causes, such as discrimination and under-valuing of the types of work women do.
Shobaa Haridas, from East London Fawcett, who started a grassroots campaign to stop employers asking about previous salaries, said: “If you are an employer, asking for salary history is incompatible with a commitment to equal pay.
“Many employers have already ended this practice and we call on more employers to take our pledge.”
Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said: “We should have put this annual marker to bed years ago and be in a far better position on equality of pay by now.
“There are reasons why women lag behind men in pay, not least because working practices haven’t kept pace with how employees, particularly women, want or need to work.”Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute
“Our own recent research with The Work Foundation found that there is much to be done by businesses to modernise their working practices and embrace agile working, but there is a deep rooted perception of ‘office-culture’.”
The number of women set to work their entire careers without ever seeing equal pay has increased from 8.5 million to 10 million over the past year, according to research by the Labour Party.
The pay gap is not set to close until 2059, so an 18-year-old woman entering employment today will have to wait until she turns 56 before the gender gap closes, said the Opposition.
Anneliese Dodds, shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “It is unacceptable that over 10 million women now face working their entire careers without seeing equal pay.
“The Conservative Government should be taking action to close the gender pay gap. Instead it’s standing by while progress has gone into reverse, with the gap actually increasing by a whopping 13% during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Conservatives are failing an entire generation of women. Labour would take urgent action to close the gender pay gap by giving women the ability to compare their salaries with men doing the same job in a different firm, and forcing employers to bring forward plans to eradicate pay gaps.”
A Government Equality Hub spokesperson said: “The pandemic has had a serious impact on business and the wider economy. That is why we set out an unprecedented offer of support, targeting sectors women are more likely to be employed in, protection for female led start-ups, and new childcare support.
“We will shortly put forward a range of measures to advance equality for women at work, increasing opportunity, and tackling the issues that are holding women back. We are committed to building back fairer, and making workplaces more equal so everyone can reach their full potential.”