More employers are choosing to hide salary information even as UK wages grow

The proportion of UK job adverts including vital salary information has slipped to a seven-year low.

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Helena Young

UK wages are rising at a record rate, but research shows that hiring employers are not openly disclosing the increases with job candidates.

Labour market figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this month, show that regular pay (excluding bonuses) grew by 7.2% between February to April 2023. This is the largest growth rate since the pandemic.

However, data from job search engine Adzuna has found that more UK employers are choosing not to publish salary information when hiring. Just 51.5% of UK job ads disclosed an intended salary or salary range in April. That’s a drop of almost 10% compared to the same time last year.

The findings are likely a reflection of today’s uncertain business landscape. Employers are understandably trying to suppress surging overheads, without jeopardising recruitment.

Nonetheless, with employees desperate to find salaries that can keep up with rising inflation and the cost of living, deliberate pay secrecy in job adverts could prove to be a serious hindrance to business hiring.

Pay secrecy in sectors with biggest labour shortages

Adzuna analysed 80 million UK job ad postings between 2016 and April 2023 to highlight the sectors, regions, and companies that are most and least transparent about pay.

The Adzuna findings indicate that the most secretive sectors when it comes to pay transparency are also those facing the biggest challenge when it comes to recruiting staff.

The biggest offender was found to be the retail industry. Only 26.8% of job adverts in the sector included salary information in April 2023 (a 14% decrease year-on-year). That’s despite retailers seeing the highest rates of staff turnover in 2022.

The next worst offenders are among the professional, scientific, and technical sectors. Just 29.3% of job adverts in this industry revealed wage information.

Much has already been written about the shortage of skilled tech workers. Earlier this year, a survey by web hosting company IONOS, found that 29% of small business owners in the UK consider the lack of job-ready tech talent to be a major threat to their growth plans this year.

In the fight for tech talent, being open about salaries could be a key weapon in improving the effectiveness of job listings.

The Adzuna data backs this up. It estimates that job ads with salary figures included receive, on average, six times more applications than those that bury this information until the later job interview stages.

Hiding salary information could impact staff morale

There are currently no laws in the UK that force businesses to share the salary details of their workforce. Nonetheless, pay transparency is important for keeping long-term employees motivated, not just new hires.

Research by jobs board found that 78% of workers in England view openness around salary as a good thing.

Also revealed in the survey, 74% of UK employees argue that salary transparency creates a fairer environment for both the individual and their colleagues.

There is evidence that women and ethnic minority workers tend to ask for less money than their white, male counterparts. Experts say transparent pay standards could alleviate the issues.

This has dual benefits for companies. Team members will show better employee engagement as they will feel valued, and that they can trust that they are being paid fairly compared to their colleagues.

Employers struggle to recruit competitively without risking budget

The ONS report also revealed the number of job vacancies in the UK. The government’s statistical bulletin puts the estimated figure at just over 1 million in May 2023. Its findings mean that job openings have now fallen consecutively since September 2021.

According to analyses, the drop is a result of economic pressures. As business confidence wavers, companies are holding back on recruitment in an effort to keep down staffing costs and preserve cash flow.

But while employers hesitate on recruitment, today’s sparse labour market continues to be in want of qualified, job-ready candidates.

Employers have even turned to more niche hiring methods, including recruiting overseas talent or hiring ex-offenders to combat the shortage of skilled workers.

The ONS’ report shows that business owners are reacting to the threat. Many are clearly reexamining their proposition for job seekers, and introducing wage rises as a way to keep staff members motivated during the cost of living crisis.

Indeed, research confirms that annual salaries are being reviewed regularly at UK businesses. According to people analytics company Visier, 29% of employees now experience a pay change in or around the end of the financial year.

With business owners caught between a rock and a hard place, the decision to leave wages off job adverts could be an attempt to limit budget where possible, and discourage salary conversations during hiring.

Pay transparency more likely to encourage job applicants

While employers may see pay secrecy as a way to move attention away from salary, this tactic could end up turning candidates away entirely.

Not revealing a salary band for a role can often mean frustration, stress and time wasted for UK workers. Pay is not just a motivator for employees – many use wage information to understand the roles and responsibilities of the job they are applying for.

Pay transparency aims to avoid this issue by clearly defining the salary or salary range that a person in a particular job role can be expected to receive.

Dan Hudson is the founder of GiGL, a video-first job platform which we featured in the Startups 100 Index earlier this year.

Hudson lists pay secrecy as one of the biggest and most common mistakes made on job adverts. He says that company’s must demonstrate a commitment to pay transparency to be able to advertise a job opening on the GiGL platform.

“Companies can’t even post a job on our platform without a salary,” says Hudson. “Salary is the top of the top three questions that candidates ask. By not including it, the employer is creating an inefficient process.”

Dissuading qualified candidates from applying to a role could end up costing more than the price of a salary raise.

Earlier this year, we published research that found that small businesses hire three unsuitable candidates each year, on average.

Two-thirds (67%) of employers surveyed said the issue was being caused by mismatched candidates getting too far in the process. Publishing salary information could be an easy way to whittle down applicants to focus on attracting qualified, interested job seekers.

Want to keep employees engaged, but unable to afford a pay rise? Read our guide to the top 50 employee benefits and perks to promote on job adverts.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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