The charity, which supports young women on low pay, found that 47% of employers ask prospective employees about their current salary and 42% admitted to not including any wage details when advertising roles. The practice is most common in the private sector, where 51% advertise without providing details of pay compared to 17% of public sector employers.
Some US states and cities have already banned employers from asking candidates about previous pay. In the past year New York City and California have outlawed the practice.
The Young Women’s Trust said that, other than in exceptional circumstances, UK organisations should follow suit. Asking 'the salary question' means that women who were underpaid in their previous job are more likely to be underpaid in their next, and disadvantages anyone moving to an area with a higher cost of living, the charity stated.
Instead organisations should make a role's level clear by including salary details in job listings, it said. It suggested that making pay more transparent would make it harder for employers to, even unintentionally, pay men and women different amounts for similar roles.
According to the Young Women’s Trust's research, many employers agree that organisations should publish salary details for all roles to increase transparency, with some saying that this is best practice as it encourages more applicants. In the charity’s survey 48% of employers were in favour of this.
Carole Easton, chief executive at Young Women’s Trust, said that pay transparency is a vital step in tackling the gender pay gap.
“We have to break the cycle that traps women in low pay," she said. "Women often start work on a lower salary than men, move to a new job and are paid based on their previous wage, as opposed to what they or the role are worth – so they continue to be paid less. Ending this practice is crucial to ending the gender pay gap.”
Easton added that women often do not apply for jobs that they assume are beyond their skillset.
“Our research shows that women are more likely to disregard jobs if they feel their skills don’t match up to them, compared to men who often apply anyway. Including salary details in job adverts would help women to see that jobs are at their level and give them an idea of where they should be negotiating from to progress their pay,” she said.
The Young Women’s Trust commissioned YouGov to carry out a poll of those making employment decisions in 2018. The total sample size was 816 senior HR professionals.