What Is Pay Transparency?

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Pay transparency is the practice of employers revealing salary data during the hiring process or within the organization. Different companies have various degrees of pay transparency, ranging from providing pay grades for job titles to offering a full list of the salaries of everyone at the company, from the CEO on down.

Key Takeaways

  • Pay transparency is the practice of sharing salary information with employees and prospective hires.
  • The benefits of pay transparency include improved pay equity, reduced turnover, and higher employee engagement.
  • Companies have different levels of pay transparency, including sharing salary ranges or exact salary data.
  • Some cities and states have legislation requiring employers to engage in pay transparency practices. 

How Pay Transparency Works

Pay transparency is a compensation philosophy that involves sharing information about salary with employees and prospective hires. Traditionally, salary information is a closely guarded secret at many private-sector companies, where pay grades are less public than in government jobs. However, employers that commit to pay transparency choose to share more information with workers about salaries.

Alternate name: Salary transparency

Companies may opt for different levels of pay transparency. Some organizations may choose to share salary ranges with new hires and current employees, while others may publish exact salary data, including bonuses and other discretionary compensation, for every worker at the company. 


Some cities and states have legislation requiring a certain amount of pay transparency from local employers. For example, employers in New York City are required to post a “good faith salary range” for every job listing, internal promotion, or transfer. However, employers in California are only required to provide a pay range once an applicant has completed an interview.

Employers that choose to embrace pay transparency first must decide how much information they want to share with employees and candidates. Depending on their goals and legal compliance requirements, this might mean:

  • Creating salary ranges for job titles and publishing them internally and externally on job ads
  • Sharing all pay ranges for every job at the organization
  • Providing details about factors that influence compensation, such as seniority and skillset
  • Publishing exact salary data for every job at the company, including C-suite roles

Compensation pros often recommend that companies that implement pay transparency have a plan to measure outcomes. This can include employee surveys and pay equity audits.


Federal law prohibits most companies from requiring employees to keep their salaries a secret. Under the National Labor Relations Act, you have the right to discuss your pay with your co-workers in person, in writing, or over social media (as long as you do not use company equipment to do so).

How To Find Salary Information

As a job seeker or employee, you can find out salary information from a variety of places.

Job Listings

A small but growing number of employers have started listing salary ranges in job postings, even in areas where they are not legally required to do so. For example, Target has set a starting wage range from $15 to $24 an hour.

Salary Websites

Websites like Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, and LinkedIn have tools you can use to obtain salary data for many different occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook has median pay for hundreds of occupations.

During the Interview Process

Some cities and states require employers to provide salary ranges to applicants who ask, but laws vary as to when they must do so. For example, employers in Cincinnati must disclose a salary range to any applicant who has received a conditional job offer. But employers in Toledo must provide a salary range to any applicant who inquires—regardless of whether they’ve received an offer. 

Internal Sources

Companies who choose to reveal pay data to employees may provide it in job postings, on the company intranet, via a shared spreadsheet or file, or any number of other ways. 

Public Sources

Very few companies share their salary data with the world at large. For example, Buffer publishes its pay information—including the exact salary of all its employees—on the company site.

Benefits of Pay Transparency

Pay transparency has multiple benefits for job seekers, employees, and companies, including: 

A Better Hiring Process

The traditional hiring process is a black box as far as salary is concerned. Employers might not ever share their budgeted salary range, hoping that applicants will name their price first and lock themselves into a lower salary. This strategy has a number of flaws, including the risk of underpaying valuable employees. It's also a time-waster for everyone involved.


Pay transparency can help speed up the hiring process, ensuring that candidates and employers are on the same page before they invest. 

Improved Pay Equity 

Studies have shown that women tend to be less likely to negotiate pay than men. One result of this is a persistent gender pay gap, even after controlling for factors like job title, education, and skillset. 

Pay transparency can close the gap by ensuring that all candidates start on the same footing—or at least in the same pay band. 

Decreased Turnover

Pay transparency also has a positive effect on pay perception, meaning employees’ feelings about whether or not they’re paid fairly. Research shows that employees who feel that they’re paid below market are more likely to look for a new job than those who think they’re being paid appropriately.

Increased Employee Engagement

When you’re happy at your job, everyone benefits. You’re more engaged, which makes you more productive and effective. Ultimately, that leads to higher profits and better outcomes for your employer. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are companies required to list salaries in job postings?

In many locations, employers don’t need to list salary information when they advertise jobs. However, some state and local laws require employers to list a salary range in job postings. Others mandate that salary be disclosed during the application or interview process. 

How can I find out how much a job pays?

There are several ways you may be able to get the estimated salary for a job. You can use websites like Glassdoor and Payscale to get estimated salaries for specific job titles. Some companies advertise how much they pay.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. NYC Commission on Human Rights. "Salary Transparency in Job Advertisements." 

  2. State of California, Department of Industrial Relations. "California Equal Pay Act." 

  3. Mercer. "How To Make the Move to Pay Transparency."

  4. National Labor Relations Board. "Your Right To Discuss Wages." 

  5. Target. “Target to Set New Starting Wage Range.”

  6. City of Cincinnati. "An Ordinance No. 83-2019."

  7. City of Toledo. "Enacting a New Toledo Municipal Code Chapter 768, Pay Equity Act To Prohibit the Inquiry and Use of Salary History in Hiring Practices in the City of Toledo." 

  8. Buffer. "Transparent Salaries." 

  9. Glassdoor. "New Study: Job Seekers Expect Salary Negotiation and Transparency."

  10. Payscale. "How Fair Pay Perception and Pay Transparency Combat Turnover," Pages 2-7, 10-12. 

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