On Tuesday 26 June 2018, a Bill was passed that will compel employers to publish data on the gender pay gap in their organisations.
Salary transparency can only be seen as a positive move, particularly for the creative sector which employs such a high proportion of women. The upshot may be that employers will soon have to publish information on differences between upper and lower quartile earners, full-time and part-time staff, and details on company bonuses.
However, one problem still rife in employers hiring practices is the time-wasting and effectively discriminatory practice of not-disclosing salaries in job adverts.
The most frustrating moment of a job-seeker’s first contact with their new employer is reading ‘commensurate with experience’, DOE (dependent on experience), or finding no mention of an annual salary or hourly rate.
Take for example the position of General Manager, a common one in the creative and cultural sector, whose roles and responsibilities can vary widely. The employer knows that they have a budget of, say €33,000–36,000 (all employers will have a range in mind; and especially in the arts – a budget!). But for reasons discussed below, they decide not to disclose it.
The first thing that will happen is that lots of over-qualified applicants begin to apply. These might be currently employed workers already on a salary of €40,000 and hoping to move organisation, or emigrants returning home for work. They have no intention of earning less than €40K. They know how much they need to pay the mortgage or rent. They would definitely not apply or take the job if they knew the salary range. Yet the employer will waste their own time and the applicant’s by reviewing their CV, calling them to interview, only for both parties to inevitably be disappointed.
The hiring company’s inbox will also be clogged with the CVs of less qualified staff who will find it more difficult to identify, or self-select, that they are under-qualified without the guide of a salary range.
It also disregards the fact that the first reason that anyone takes a job is in exchange for remuneration. Even in the creative sector, where people take pride and sometimes pleasure in their work, we still need to pay mortgages, rent, feed families, etc.
Non-disclosure of remuneration also perpetuates the gender pay gap. CSO figures from 2017 show that women are paid 14% less than men. This is an increase from 12% in 2012 figures. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one is that we reward men for being aggressive negotiators while punishing women for the same practice. Having a defined salary, or salary range, reduces the need for negotiation and haggling leading to increased gender pay parity.
Not providing a salary range also discriminates against groups of people who need the job most. It’s far more likely that someone who can still rely on well-off parents, or who’s partner is on a professional salary, or who is independently wealthy to one degree or another, will take time to apply for jobs whose salaries are undisclosed. Applicants whose main focus for working is the financial remuneration will be less likely to spend time writing and bespoke cover letter for a job, or on filling out application forms, if the potential reward is illusive.
Again, it shows how counter-productive the practice of salary non-disclosure is from the employer’s point of view… they’re missing out on candidates who are most likely to want / need to stay in the job if they get it, potentially leading to a higher rate of staff turnover in the long run.
Trust and Transparency
Employers should also want to begin their relationship with their new employee on the best possible footing. So why invite the elephant into the room into your very first conversation with new staff by tiptoeing around the most important piece of information – salary – until the very last minute?
Many of us have been to interviews for jobs where the salary is ‘commensurate with experience’ yet we know for sure that the employer has a figure or a salary range in mind. In effect, we know they’ve decided in favour of non-transparency… not a nice feeling, right? It may set the tone for our entire relationship with our employer going forward. In a culture of non-transparency around salary, it leaves us wondering what others in the organisation are earning? Wondering to what degree we’re valued? Wondering if there are better opportunities elsewhere?
While we’re at it, let’s do away with the practice of requesting salary histories too. How is what somebody earned in a previous role relevant to their deserved income for a completely different position? Salary history is a great way of ensuring that groups of people who have been traditionally underpaid – again women, those from non-wealthy backgrounds – continue to be underpaid. People should be paid the wage equivalent to the workload and responsibilities that the position entails, not what an employer thinks they can get away with paying.
Why Cloak Salaries?
Do some creative organisations cloak salaries because they are so low as to be embarrassing? Paying salaries that can compete with private sector salaries is not easy in the arts. However, it is an issue that the organisation and board need to address separately, and which the sector might need to address as a whole, not one that an organisation should pass on to new staff, or to strangers whose time they’re wasting by encouraging job applications from people who can’t afford to earn so little.
Are organisations not disclosing salaries because they don’t want existing staff to find out? If this is the reason, such an organisation should consider whether such a practice is fostering a culture of non-transparency, and ask whether or not this practice increases employees’ sense of happiness in the work-place and good staff-retention rates, or the opposite?
Hopefully, recent moves in the Dáil will begin to usher in a new era of salary transparency, including transparency of salaries at the recruitment stage.