UAE labour laws: can a prospective employer force you to provide salary history?

Some HR experts say being asked to reveal old payslips could promote bad company culture

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Hiring companies asking interview candidates to provide proof of their pay has been common practice for years, but is it outdated?

A recent post online has reignited a longstanding debate among recruiters and human resources experts, with many deeming the request unethical.

They said revealing old pay slips would have a negative impact on a candidate receiving their true worth. But others argued it was a way of weeding out those lying about inflated earnings.

In my experience, I have predominantly seen it happen to people applying for low level positions. It happens a lot in the blue collar worker industries
Sarah Brooks, Fikrah HR

Dr Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates, said there is no written legislation to support either argument.

“[Requesting a payslip] is not prohibited by law, but in addition, it is not a legal requirement for the candidate to present proof of previous salary either,” he said.

Some recruiters argued forcing an individual to reveal salary information could damage a brand, promote bad company culture and put good candidates off taking a role.

Here, The National has explored the reasons this is done, whether it is fair to job applicants, and if there are different ways of achieving the same outcome.

Having worked as a HR director in the UAE for 15 years, Sarah Brooks, owner of Fikrah HR, said it was a short-sighted approach when hiring good candidates.

“In my experience, I have predominantly seen it happen to people applying for low-level positions. It happens a lot in the blue-collar worker industries,” she said.

“You often have certain individuals working in administrative HR roles or finance teams within a company that make the final decision.

“For example, if they have a budget of Dh4,000 for a role, the candidate is asking for Dh3,500 but was previously on Dh2,5000, they would likely offer Dh3,000.

“If the individual accepts the position then later finds out that his or her co-workers are on a higher salary, it can lead to higher staff turnover as they feel undervalued.”

Louise Vine, managing director at Inspire Selection, a recruitment agency in Dubai, said asking for salary certificates or payslips was antiquated.

“We often see this happening right at the end of the recruitment process, after many rounds of interviews with an intention on both sides to move forward with a job offer,” she said.

“Candidates often see this as a big red flag and would rather not work for an organisation which puts such little trust in them.

“If an employer finds a suitable candidate and has the budget to pay what the candidate wants, why should it matter what the candidate is already earning?”

Robust recruitment process

People move on to new jobs for many reasons, but salary is often the biggest driver.

Recruiters said on-boarding candidates on the budgeted salary was the fairest way to please all parties.

And having a more robust recruitment process to define a talent's worth was the best way to build a strong team.

Praveen Srinivasan, head of human resources at FDC International, an IT distributor, said if a candidate is underpaid in a previous role, they should not be benchmarked against that salary for future roles.

“I do not see any logic in asking for proof of payment slips. As a HR professional I would have already analysed the current market standards and understood the budget for the position for which I am planning to hire,” he said.

“If a shortlisted candidate is being paid lower than the market standards, his or her salary expectations could be one and a half times what their current salary is.

“If they are judged on a current salary, they will never be able to progress. It is up to us as HR professionals to fully assess whether a candidate is suitable for a job or not, without looking at their wage slip.”

But some experts said there should be an exception to the rule. For instance, when recruiting for a commission-based role or within certain industries, requesting previous payslips could be a good way of ascertaining whether an applicant has been successful in reaching targets.

Additionally, they argued it was a good way of checking if a candidate is genuine or not.

"Salary certificates can be seen as a measure of a candidate's integrity, presenting their actual salary vis-a-vis their declared salary while undergoing the screening process," said Elaine Magbag from Black Pearl, a HR consultancy in the UAE.

"Any discrepancy will be a big red flag for heavily audited sectors such as banking and financial institutions.

"The other side of the argument is that salary certificates can act as data in benchmarking and reviewing the company's compensation structure.

"This will help in making companies a viable place of work by keeping their salaries competitive with the current market."

But in an era of increasing value in diversity and equality, she said salary certificates "should not discriminate" and offers should not be anchored on them.

Another HR consultant commented online: “[We] are not buying cryptocurrency here, we are hiring someone who will make or break an organisation," he said.

“Payslips, bank statements and appointment letters help to know the exact [cost to the company] of the candidate.

“Today, many candidates lie about their actual [salary slips] on the basis they are looking for a hike.”

While another said recruiters should not be "penalised for carrying out verification checks" on salaries.

“It is not about having a strong process, it is about trust,” he said.

“The more information you gather from a person with written proof, your trust will go stronger.”

UAE Salary Guide - in pictures

Updated: February 08, 2022, 11:43 AM