I remember being a recruiter looking for candidates, and one of the first things I’d try to figure out someone’s salary history, to determine whether or not someone fit our salary requirements.
I’d ask the “what are you currently making?” question to find out whether or not we could afford a particular candidate, or whether I thought that candidate might be what we called a “flight risk” if they took a salary cut to join us, but continued looking for a higher paying job.
To be honest, that approach of mine (and my companies) was very short-sighted, since someone who brings real value to the team shouldn’t be slighted over a $10K difference. However, internally to a company there was always this sense that we had to pay acute awareness to making sure that all members of the team had the right salary (based on their history) as a motivator for their own particular circumstances. But- what if people can be motivated AND paid equally for skills, with room for extra based on job performance?
As of January 1, 2018, all of that will change in Massachusetts, which passed a law that you won’t have to share your current salary level with a new employer; you can’t prohibit employees from talking about salary with each other, and you can’t try to verify past salary history without written permission. (Here’s the actual law in case you want to check it out: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S2119).
But as a job seeker in Massachusetts (or with a Massachusetts employer), how will you deal with the salary question if it comes up?
First: Be prepared to talk about “desired salary” instead of “current salary.”
This requires some research on your part, but this line of questioning isn’t specifically illegal, the way the bill is written. An employer will still be able to ask you what you’d LIKE to make. Use research tools like your own network, glassdoor.com, salary.com or payscale.com to look into comparable positions. Also, the employer should be proactively advertising a salary, so you’ll have some sense of what to ask for.
Second: Be patient.
Although there was a lot of fanfare when the bill was signed, and you may have heard about it on the news, it doesn’t actually kick in until January 2018. So your current job search will likely still have the question about salary history, and there’s not much you can do about that (except know that they’ll have to prove that you’re being paid equitably when the law does go into effect.) And even when it DOES get rolled out, some employers will still try to ask the question, and you don’t want to be the one to educate them that their behavior is illegal. (I’d just recommend a smile and a “well, my salary range is …” if you’re asked after the law is implemented.)
Third: Boost your skills.
Employers will need to justify any pay differentials based on a few categories (although they can not reduce a current employee’s salary, if you’re concerned about that):
– seniority at the company (without taking away time for pregnancy and/or sick leave)
– performance at the company (merit or sales/production-related)
– job location and/or travel requirements
– and this final category: “education, training or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the job in question.”
And here’s where you can start thinking NOW about the education, training and experience that will allow your employer to pay you more money. Is there a gap that needs to be filled? Or a new skill you can learn that will protect your pay?
This is great news for people who’ve been underemployed since the Recession, or who’ve taken time out of the workplace for caregiving or illness. It’s also great news for salary transparency, and making salary less of a “game” that people play, which rewards people who negotiate well.
What do you think about this new law, and how do you think employers and job seekers will need to change?