Business

Young people ask for pay transparency in job postings, saying the deck is stacked against job seekers

More young people are asking for pay transparency in job ads so they can choose whether to apply. It's a move several states have already made in the United States, and one several Canadian provinces are considering.

Indeed Canada says companies that post pay data receive up to 90% more applicants

Michelle Hamaoui says she wishes she'd had more information about employers' pay scales when she first arrived Canada four years ago. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

Four years ago, Michelle Hamaoui arrived in Vancouver from Lebanon and got a job in which she felt she was underpaid. She says going forward, she won't do that again.

Next time she's job searching, the IT project manager wants to know what she's getting herself into before applying — and that includes the salary. When she first came to Canada, she was unfamiliar with the job market and she says that information made public would have been helpful when negotiating.

"You don't want to go through the whole process of doing four months of interviews with a company only to realize at the end that the offer does not match what you were looking for or what is actually sustainable for you," she said.

Hamaoui is one of many people in the private sector hoping to see provincial governments require compensation information to be included in job listings.

"There is zero reason for that not to be disclosed the same way it's working in the public sector," she said. "There's no reason it shouldn't work for the private sector."

B.C.'s NDP government, led by John Horgan, says it's considering the move as a measure to reduce gender wage gaps

Legislatively, the movement is gaining steam in the United States. Colorado already requires pay scales in job ads. New York City's requirement is set to begin in November, and the state of Washington to follow in 2023. Several other states require the information to be given if the job seeker asks. 

And across the Atlantic, the government in the United Kingdom is trialing a pilot project. 

The push for companies to disclose salaries

2 months ago
Duration 2:02
There’s a growing movement calling on companies to be more transparent about salaries for prospective employees and including them on job postings. Since this story initially aired, New York City has pushed back its pay transparency requirements from May to November.

Canada at risk of falling behind

In Canada, the practice of posting the information does happen organically. Indeed Canada, a job posting site, says 66 per cent of its listings contain some form of pay information. 

But Sarah Kaplan, a business professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, says Canada hasn't kept up with other countries when it comes to requiring the data.

"I think we're going to see this more and more, not only on the big sites like Indeed, but every company that posts a job ad," said Kaplan.

She thinks there's going to be more pressure to post the range. 

A recent survey from Bankrate.com, a personal finance website in the U.S., says young people are breaking the taboo around talking about money. Approximately 40 per cent of millennial and generation Z employees have told coworkers what they make. 

That's compared to 31 per cent of gen-Xers, those aged 42 to 57, but only 19 per cent of baby boomers, those aged 57 to 76. 

Companies seeing a payoff

Some companies have made salary disclosure a policy and been happy with the results.

Indeed Canada says that companies that post pay data receive up to 90 per cent more applicants. 

Vancouver accounting-software company Bench has been part of that action. The company decided to start posting pay scales in its job postings nine months ago and says it's already paying off by creating a trusting relationship with its employees.

"We've seen the huge uptick in the number of candidates that have applied," said Spencer Miller, the company's head of ​​people analytics. 

Spencer Miller, head of people analytics at accounting firm Bench, says the company has seen great results after being more open about salary information. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

He describes the current job market as "a candidate's market." And says by posting the information, they're creating a relationship of trust from the get-go.

"We need to make sure that we are attracting and retaining incredible people here," Miller said.

As part of that wider push for transparency, Bench also began posting current job titles and salary bands so that people working within the company have an idea of where they could go. 

The company's postings are similar to what you might already find in public or union environments, where posting salaries is standard practice.

"It turns out that when you do the right thing, it often generates really great outcomes as well," Miller said.

A slow process for some

But there is some pushback on the trend. 

Some groups that represent corporations say such policies will take time to implement, and they are concerned about oversight. That was one of the reasons New York City on Thursday decided to delay the implementation on its new salary disclosure rules from May to November 2023.

Some HR departments are still scrambling to comply with Colorado's requirements, says Hani Mansour, an economics professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

"It's creating a lot of headaches for HR departments," he said. "There's now a bigger effort to standardize job codes, figure out you know whether job titles make sense or not [and] what is comparable work."

For many Canadians, openly discussing how much money we make is taboo. But could sharing our wages, openly, actually change what we get paid and lead to more pay equity? Anis Heydari takes a closer look at a concept called "pay transparency" — which some experts believe would level the playing field in many workplaces.

Ontario actually passed pay scale in job ads as a requirement in 2018. But the Progressive Conservative government delayed the move indefinitely after it was elected.

For Hamaoui, the issue is one of fairness. She says some people won't know how underpaid they are until salary information is made public.

"It's playing poker when you only have two cards out of five," she said. "And they have all the cards."

With files from Ryan Hindle

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