Amazon staff can no longer ask US jobseekers for their current salary. Picture: Joe Castro/AAP Image
Amazon staff can no longer ask US jobseekers for their current salary. Picture: Joe Castro/AAP Image

The question Amazon can’t ask women

AMAZON has issued a blanket ban on asking interviewees for their salary history during the recruitment process.

According to an internal company message board post, hiring managers and recruiters can no longer "directly or indirectly ask candidates about their current or prior base pay, bonus, equity compensation, variable pay, or benefits" or "use salary history information as a factor in determining whether or not to offer employment and what compensation to offer a candidate", BuzzFeed News has reported.

The use of tools like LinkedIn Recruiter to estimate someone's salary have also been outlawed.

The new rules were shared among US staff in a bid to close the gender pay gap and support wage equity between male and female staff.

The controversial practice has already been outlawed in several US states and some big companies, such as Facebook and Google, have already embraced the change.

The idea behind the ban is simple - when an employer knows exactly how much a candidate is making, it's much easier to hire them for the lowest possible salary.

And while it is illegal in the US and Australia to pay men and women different wages based purely on gender, it is commonplace to determine a wage for a new role based on an applicant's salary history.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency estimates Australian women earn, on average, 15.3 per cent less than men - so in a nutshell, asking for a jobseeker's current wage can be an indirect form of discrimination.

Melbourne entrepreneur and pay equity campaigner Gemma Lloyd, who founded DCC Jobs, a company which connects female employees with female-friendly workplaces, welcomed Amazon's new policy.

"This is a brilliant policy from Amazon and I firmly believe all employers should be taking this approach," she said.

DCC Jobs CEO Gemma Lloyd says more should be done to close the gender pay gap. Picture: Jamie Hanson
DCC Jobs CEO Gemma Lloyd says more should be done to close the gender pay gap. Picture: Jamie Hanson

"Salary should be determined by the employer based on the job duties and seniority, not concocted based on the interviewee's previous salary."

And while asking a candidate for their current salary is legal in Australia, there seems to be a growing number of companies shying away from the question.

Australian software company Zendesk already has a similar policy in place, and managing director Brett Adam said he hoped other companies would follow suit.

He said his company stopped asking for jobseekers' current salaries years ago, instead asking for their salary expectations to ensure everyone was on the same page.

"It's particularly important for folks who have historically suffered prejudice with regards to compensation, particularly women and particularly women in tech but also other minority groups," he said.

"One experience in particular convinced me this was absolutely the right thing to do. We were working with a recruiter to hire three people in similar roles, and one of the successful candidates was female and the other two were male.

"The recruiter said we didn't have to offer the same money to the female candidate because she wasn't earning as much. I was horrified and in fact, if her previous employer was exploiting her, I wanted to correct that injustice."

Mr Adam said he was disturbed by some Australian employers who seemed to focus on hiring new recruits as cheaply as possible.

"The challenge based on observations is that women tend to undersell themselves but we work with recruiting teams to understand the market and we go out looking to pay what the role is worth," he said.


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