Salary Transparency in Job Ads – The Case For & Against
Let’s face it: despite promises of flexible scheduling and commitment to work-life balance, pay (and benefits) is still a significant factor in whether a candidate applies for or accepts a job in the veterinary field. However, for veterinary employers, hospitals, and clinics, making salaries public can be complicated. You come across a promising veterinary job ad while browsing online. The description is appealing, the team members seem friendly, and you possess most of the qualifications for the role. But when you look for the expected salary, you find ambiguous phrases like “depending on experience” or “competitive.” Why don’t veterinary employers simply list the salary upfront?
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“In traditional veterinary practice environments, the salary is often hidden because it’s a game of cat and mouse trying to figure out what salary the candidate is currently on, what they’re expecting, and what the practice is willing to pay,” explains Dr. Jane Thompson, a practice owner at AnimalCare, which operates in several locations across the United States.
The lack of salary disclosure can hurt job seekers. Knowing the expected salary upfront lets a candidate determine whether a job will be financially viable for them. It also streamlines conversations later in the hiring process. This aligns with data from a 2018 LinkedIn survey, in which 61% of respondents said compensation was the most important part of the job description. A Glassdoor study showed similar results, with salary (67%) being the top factor jobseekers look for in ads.
Despite this, many veterinary employers still leave out compensation details in adverts, often out of fear it may put them at a competitive disadvantage or cause resentment among existing staff.
However, there is a growing global movement to make salary transparency not only a new norm but also the law. An increasing body of research shows that veterinary practices that are forthcoming about their wages can attract better, more diverse talent, making salary transparency an actionable way of creating a more equitable workplace.
Several reasons explain why only 12.6% of global companies published the pay range for a role within their job ads last year, according to a 2021 report from Seattle-based compensation data company Payscale.
“Veterinary employers don’t want to publicize how much they pay, in part, because it’s going to create resentment among existing staff members,” explains Dr. Laura Williams, a veterinary management consultant.
In an ideal world, everyone doing the same job would make the same amount of money when they start. But that’s not always the case. In certain labor markets, veterinary employers may have to pay higher salaries to attract the best talent, which could cause conflict internally if existing employees – particularly ones who started at a lower wage – could easily view that information.
Dr. Williams adds, “If you keep compensation private, in a way, it protects the employer and also allows the employer greater discretion.”
Many veterinary employers also withhold salary information to give them more negotiation leverage with potential candidates as they advance to the latter stages of the recruitment process.
Some veterinary practices fear that if they list a salary range, all applicants will expect to receive the figure at the top end of that range, even if that figure is only reserved for the most qualified candidates. Receiving an offer at the bottom end – and accepting it – may lead to resentment right from the start.
Dr. James Martin, a veterinary industry expert, says that hesitation around salary transparency often comes from practices that lack both formal pay structures for their roles and confidence in their salary bands, often due to market fluctuations.
But while some veterinary employers may remain cautious about listing pay, Dr. Martin says there’s a competitive advantage in moving towards disclosure. Veterinary practices that are more transparent about their salaries can win over the best candidates and attract diverse applicants.
Indeed, there does appear to be a broader trend toward more salary transparency. In Latvia, for example, a new law that came into effect in 2019 makes it mandatory to post expected salaries on all job advertisements.
In the US, Colorado became the first state to enact a law similar to Latvia’s earlier this year. It requires employers, including veterinary practices, to disclose hourly wages or pay ranges in all employment listings, with fines for not complying between $500 and $10,000 per violation. The law was built on a wave of new regulations in 21 US states that prohibit employers from asking applicants about their salary history. Now, several of those same US states concerned about salary history are looking to follow Colorado’s lead in making pay expectations a right for all job seekers.
Dr. Sarah Evans, a practice manager at a Colorado-based veterinary clinic, says while competitors do use these publicly available figures to compete for talent, she thinks it’s been largely a win-win for both employees and veterinary employers.
“Potential employees are very thankful that we show the salary because time is important, and we don’t waste any of it,” she says. “From our side, as well, we don’t waste our time with checking resumes of people who are clearly thinking of a higher or lower salary than we will offer.”
Moves like these have forced veterinary businesses to look at salary transparency in a fresh light. However, they’ve not been without their detractors. Major companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Cigna, and Nike have included language in their job listings (which do not include explicit salary expectations) that specifically prohibits workers in Colorado from applying, according to the tracking website Colorado Excluded.
Dr. Emma Thompson, a veterinary industry consultant, thinks the move toward more pay transparency will take a while to catch on, particularly for large veterinary corporations. But she does see signs that the tide may be shifting.
“I think there are going to be societal pressures that continue to push this, particularly in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she explains. The market is tightening, she adds, “so just doing things the way we’ve always done it isn’t going to help veterinary practices get ahead.”
As the push for salary transparency continues, veterinary practices that adopt these measures early may stand out as industry leaders. By being more transparent about pay structures, these practices demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which may help them attract top talent and enhance their reputation in the field.
Dr. Susan Lee, a veterinarian and practice owner in California, says that her clinic has experienced positive outcomes since adopting salary transparency. “Since implementing salary transparency in our job ads, we’ve noticed an increase in the quality of applicants and a more diverse pool of candidates. Additionally, the conversations we have during the interview process are more straightforward, and both parties have a clearer understanding of expectations,” she explains.
However, Dr. Lee acknowledges that there may be challenges in implementing salary transparency, particularly when it comes to addressing potential discrepancies in pay for current staff members. To address this issue, she recommends that veterinary practices review their existing pay structures and make necessary adjustments to ensure fairness and equity for all team members.
Salary transparency is becoming increasingly important in the veterinary industry as practices look to attract and retain skilled professionals. While there may be challenges in implementing this approach, the potential benefits of creating a more equitable workplace and fostering trust among employees are too significant to ignore. As societal expectations shift and legal requirements evolve, veterinary employers that embrace salary transparency will be well-positioned for success in the competitive job market.
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