Salary History — Is It a Thing of the Past?

Mercer PeoplePro Blog Salary History

You Can’t Ask About Salary History, But They Can Tell!

Can we or can’t we ask about salary history of job candidates? What is that proposed regulation (or in some states the law) saying? Well, it may or may not be passed in your state, but things are definitely starting to change. Just to be clear, the law isn’t simply as it appears on the surface. What it is really aimed at is offering fair pay, for both men and women, for a position, based on skills not on salary history.

According to the United States Census Bureau, women are still paid $.79 for every $1 that men are paid. It’s about fair pay for similar or like work. It is not about punishing organizations but about balancing pay within the workforce. Take a look at this New York Times article outlining the Massachusetts State Law. It does a great job of explaining the law and its intent.

The issue in your head is most likely – “how the heck are we supposed to know what people want for compensation?” After all, we don’t want to waste their time, our time and/or our manager’s time interviewing if the compensation will not fit the candidates’ needs.

In general you probably already ask the questions “what are you currently making” and “what are you looking for.” One of those questions is still viable — since “what are you looking for” is not a question about current or past compensation it can still be asked.

Additionally, asking about current benefits or perquisites (perks) is still an appropriate line of inquiry. As you know most candidates are looking at comparable benefits package along with an appropriate compensation package. This is not such a different way of thinking, just a different way of asking the question. So the question is – “what are you looking for?” You can also say the position pays $ and the candidate can either self-select out or continue on in the process.

Many times candidates will divulge the information on either full salary history and/or current salary. Don’t panic, if they bring the subject up, unprompted, that’s fine! The discussion can continue as they brought the information to light, you did not.

This new regulation may mean that you need to tweak your line of questioning. It does not mean that your hands are tied behind your back. Keep in mind the whole purpose of the law is to make sure you pay people correctly for a position whether male or female.

It is about skill set, work history and what you think the person will bring to your organization. It really is a win/win as your goal is to fill the role with the best person and candidates want the best role for themselves and to be paid fairly, whether male or female.

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Written by Mercer PeoplePro Growing Your Business specialist, Ruth Baylis


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