US government to ban use of salary history in federal job offers

By on 15/05/2023 | Updated on 15/05/2023
A photograph of US dollars.
Photo by Brett Hondow, Pixabay

The US government is set to prohibit the use of previous salary information in setting pay for federal employees as part of action to boost pay equity.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has proposed the ban, which would stop federal agencies using an applicant’s salary history when setting pay for new federal employees.

Using previous salaries as a starting point for pay deals can lock pay gaps, and OPM director Kiran Ahuja said that the proposed regulations represented “a major step forward that will help make the federal government a national leader in pay equity”.

She added: “Relying on a candidate’s previous salary history can exacerbate pre-existing inequality and disproportionally impact women and workers of colour. With these proposed regulations, the Biden-Harris administration is setting the standard and demonstrating to the nation that we mean business when it comes to equality, fairness, and attracting the best talent.”

Listen to our latest podcast, with the White House’s Noreen Hecmanczuk:

Rule follows Biden executive order

The proposed rule is now subject to consultation until 12 June 2023 before implementation is agreed.

Indication of the proposed change was first made in an executive order from Biden in March 2022 to “eliminate discriminatory pay practices that inhibit the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the federal workforce and the procurement of property and services by the federal government”. The order called on the OPM to issue a proposed rule that would address the use of salary history in the hiring and pay-setting processes for federal employees – although it was not clear until the publication of the regulations on 10 May that it would end the practice outright.

The regulations will cover four different federal pay scales: the general schedule pay system, prevailing rate pay system, administrative appeals judge pay system, and administrative law judge pay system.

The gender pay gap for the federal government’s civilian workforce in 2022 was 5.6%, an improvement from 5.9% in 2021. The White House highlighted that the federal gender pay gap is far smaller than the national gender pay gap, which sits at 16%. From 1992 to 2022, the pay gap for the federal workforce decreased from 24.5% to the current 5.6%.

The White House said that the proposed regulations would advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to position the federal government as a model employer for the nation and advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to attract a workforce drawn from the full diversity of America.

Read more: Biden pledges to ‘address use of salary history’ in setting federal government pay rates

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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