Pay Equity Starts with Transparency

The Recruitment Process

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Eliminating Pay Discrimination in the Recruitment Process

The EU Pay Transparency Directive also applies to applicants ahead of the interview process, changing the way wage setting is traditionally done. 

Conventionally many companies have been used to poll an applicant's salary expectations during screening or interview by asking for their pay history, current pay or expectations. This type of information asymmetry makes it harder for the applicant to negotiate their compensation package with their future employer. And it is this disadvantage that the directive aims at eliminating.

Asking questions about an applicant's pay history will no longer be allowed, as such questions will be legally equated with asking about a pregnancy. This fundamentally changes the power balance between employers and employees.

This part of the directive is designed to ensure that previous pay discrimination an applicant may have faced, isn't simply copied into the remuneration package at the new employer. Eurostat reports a significantly larger Gender Pay Gap among senior workers than among the young generation, indicating that the existing approach based on the applicant's personal pay history exacerbates existing pay gaps that may have arisen as a result of work breaks, e.g. maternity leaves, or discriminatory actions of former employers. Hence, going forward, the hiring company must inform applicants ahead of an interview what the expected pay range for the position is and can no longer ask the candidate.

In short, you could says that it's the chair that determines the salary and not the individual sitting in it. 


How companies choose to tackle this change will vary, and especially the breadth of the ranges announced will be one of the key things to monitor. Companies which indicate narrow pay ranges, will have limited possibility to differentiate based on the applicants' experience and credentials - and they will need to ensure that existing employees in positions of equal value are also within the same given range, so they will not feel unfairly treated. This requires a detailed job structure, but it also raises your company's credibility among existing and prospective employees,ad makes you an attractive workplace, which in turn makes it easier to recruit and retain talent. At the other end of the scale, we have the companies that apply very broad pay ranges. They will likely bee seen as trying to cheat the system to maintain discriminatory pay schemes, and thus seem like a less attractive employer. 

Pay Ranges

How to Determine the Relevant Pay Ranges?

To comply with the EU Pay Transparency Directive's requirements of providing applicants with information about the pay or pay range, requires a system or job structure in which you can compare the position to all employees across the organization doing similar work or work of similar value. Applying a job hierarchy that includes levels facilitates determination of the relevant pay range for a given position, based on internal data, and this can also be compared externally to market data using reliable and relevant salary statistics.

How to Announce Pay Ranges in a Recruitment Process?

The Pay Transparency Directive states that applicants should recieve information about the initial pay or pay range prior to the interview or conclusion of a contract. The most obvious solution is thus to add this information to your job ads. Doing this may also give you a compatitive advantage initially, as applicants value your openness and percieve you as the more trustworthy employer. Hence, there is not reason why you should wait for the directive to enter into force locally before adopting this element.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you have a Job Architecture that defines your Categories of Workers including pay ranges?
  • Are you ready to announce the total compensation package for a vacancy?
  • Do you know ahead of an interview how the applicant fits into your categories of workers?
  • Are you ready to define salaries based on the chair rather than its occupant?
  • Are your Hiring Managers ready to adapt to the changing power balance?

  • Are you ready to handle reactions from existing employees when they hear or see the pay range on a vacancy?