When jobseekers scroll websites looking for new careers in Dublin, it’s likely that they’ll struggle to find mention of what an advertised position would pay.
In a sample of 1,107 recent adverts for jobs in Dublin on the website Indeed, 746 adverts didn’t have salaries or salary ranges listed in the special field for that information. That’s roughly two-thirds.
Some academics and policy researchers say leaving salaries off adverts is one of several barriers making it harder to tackle Ireland’s pay gaps – and that legislation is needed to further empower jobseekers and employees.
“When they do this, this is one of the reasons the gender pay gap continues, this is one of the reasons the racial pay gap continues,” says Ebun Joseph, a career development officer and academic.
“Because if you do not know what they are paying Joe, how can Jane come in and ask for the same?” she says.
Others disagree. Shane Nolan, of Firstaff Recruitment Agency, said he doesn’t think it’s anyone’s business what anybody else is paid. “It is private and personal information,” he said.
Clients may ask to conceal salaries for all kinds of reasons, he said, by email. “In my opinion, it doesn’t affect the pay gap.”
In the sample of recent job adverts in the city, companies and organisations across sectors opted to leave salaries off job descriptions.
In recent times, Penneys has advertised for a customs audit analyst and fashion communications administrator, and PressUp has been looking for wait staff and administrative assistants.
The Law Society of Ireland, meanwhile, has been searching for an accounts assistant.
Large tech and consulting companies looking to hire recently have also opted not to include salaries in their recent postings, including: Facebook, which was looking for account managers and programme managers; Twitter, which was looking for a public-policy associate; and Accenture, which was looking for content-review associates and a wellness programme lead.
None of those companies or organisations answered queries about why they opted not to list salaries in their adverts, and what they thought of suggestions that companies should list salaries to bolster pay transparency and ensure equal pay across genders and backgrounds.
In general, companies don’t advertise salaries in part because they fear it could limit the number of applications they get, says Christine Cross, the head of the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Limerick.
“They’re afraid that the salary will put somebody off, if the salary is lower than somebody had expectations of,” she said.
If they don’t put it, they can always bump it up a bit. “It’s to give them flexibility in the negotiation process,” she says.
Shane Nolan, a recruitment consultant with Firstaff Recruitment Agency said that sometimes clients ask them to advertise a salary to attract top talent. “And sometimes, they ask us not to advertise and to be more discreet.”
That can be because they don’t want to cause internal problems with current employees, he said, by email. “But there is no one reason that companies advertise or don’t advertise salaries. It varies and depends on the role and the company.”
Cross, at the University of Limerick, says that not listing salaries goes back to how companies and organisations set salaries during recruitment.
Usually, at some point in a job interview, the candidate will be asked their salary expectations and what they’re earning, she says. “If they’re interested in you, they will ask you those two questions.”
They’ll then base the salary they offer that candidate on whatever they earned in their previous job. “So they normally go above whatever you’re currently earning,” she says.
Those two questions, though, can lead to problems, some say.
Ebun Joseph often gets calls from job seekers wanting advice on how to answer when they’re asked, when looking for work, what their salary range would be. “People call me to say, ‘I don’t know what to write,’” she says.
People can undercut themselves when asked and are more likely to undercut than overbid, says Joseph. “They don’t want to disadvantage themselves. They don’t want to be seen as not-competitive.”
Joseph says that those who are better connected, who know people in different positions, have a network to turn to that can help them understand what to expect in salaries or benefits.
People from migrant communities, or Black African communities in particular, she says, might not have as many people in relevant positions to turn to for advice. And “if you don’t know, you don’t get”, she says.
Those who are more desperate or who are stuck in different ways might be more likely to lowball themselves than others. For those who are asked what their last salary was, that can also lead to problems.
Cross says that if employers base a candidate’s new salary in a new role on their past salary, any past bias or discrimination carries over into the new organisation. “I think that’s very detrimental to women and minorities.”
Research in Ireland shows that women are paid less than men, Cross says. In 2016, Ireland had a gender pay gap of 13.9 percent, according to Eurostat data. “You’re going to continue to be disadvantaged,” she said.
Denise Roche, a legal and policy officer at the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), said there are all kinds of scenarios where women in particular could find a low wage following them around.
For example, if they’ve been out of work, looking after children, and left during a time when salaries were low in the recession. “When you come back into the workforce, now in a boom, if the only salary you can rely on was a job five years ago,” she says.
Say somebody is moving from a female-dominated industry, where wages are generally lower, to a male-dominated one. Again, they could be stalked by lower pay when they move over, she says.
Says Cross: “You’re never going to be able to close the gender pay gap if the system that we use currently, culturally in the Irish system, if it continues.”
Nolan, the consultant at Firstaff Recruitment Agency, sees it differently. “I find that a lot of the times what locks a candidate into a certain salary bracket is their own mentality,” he says.
There’s ample opportunity for people to improve skills and experience and climb the salary ladder, he said. “Yes that involves hard work, whether you happen to be male or female.”
That can include volunteer work, getting another degree, or retraining, he said. “All of these things are unrelated to salary or current earnings and will increase a candidate’s earning power.”
Is Change Needed?
Joseph, though, says that current practice around salary transparency needs to change – and that that would require legislation. “If you leave it to people to do the right thing, they are not going to do the right thing.”
The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill going through the Dáil at the moment would require organisations with more than 50 employees to report information each year on pay and benefits gaps.
But another recommendation from Roche, of the NWCI, in an NWCI report called No Small Change, is that companies should have to include salaries in their job adverts.
The employer knows what the job is worth to them, Roche says. “They should publish the salary scale so people know from the off what the job is worth.”
An organisation lists the minimum qualifications they require, says Joseph. “So why are they not able to tell people that this is the minimum pay, and this is the maximum pay for the role?”
If the employer wants to put, as well as the salary range, that they are willing to go higher, say depending on experience, she says,“Then, they can put it there that there is room for negotiation.”
Nolan, of Firstaff Recruitment Agency, said that salaries are private information. Besides, “candidates should first and foremost apply for jobs on its merit, and their skills, abilities and levels of expertise, rather than the financial remuneration”, he said.
Nolan says he knows many women who are better paid than men. “If a woman’s skills, abilities and experience are equal to a male counterparts, then of course they should be paid comparatively,” he said.
“But I think it is wide of the mark to suggest not advertising salaries has any impact on the gender pay gap, and that women/minorities have any right to know what a male counterpart earns or has previously earned, or vice versa,” he said.
Roche says, though, that more measures should be taken. Some countries and US states have banned employers from asking about your previous salary for example, she said.
Alongside that are measures that companies have to publish their salary scales or hand it over when asked, she said. In California, if the applicant asks for the pay-scale of an organisation, the employer has to give it, she says.
The same should happen here, she says. “I think they should have to say their payscale, but also say whether they have maternity leave, or paternity leave.”
A candidate could be in their third interview before they find out, say, that they’re being offered €5,000 more than they’re on, but less of a pension. “They’ll still have to work it out,” she said.
More wage and salary transparency about rebalancing the playing field, Roche says. “It’s about giving employees a bit more power, and a little bit more of an ability to choose for themselves.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Employment Affairs said that the rate of pay for any job is a matter of contract between an employee and his or her employer.
“The Minister has no plans at this time to legislate to compel employers to state the rate of pay in advertisements,” they said.
Legally, “employers are required to operate fair recruitment procedures from the outset that are free from discrimination”, they said.