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I am applying for faculty positions in multiple countries. For all of the UK positions, it was necessary to fill out an online form, which always asks for my current salary, and often asks for my "expected salary". All the UK job calls I have seen did state a salary range.

I find it very uncomfortable to tell them an "expected salary" and I worry that they will try to use this to exploit me.

Also, my current position was extended with a lower salary than what I was getting before (due to funding constraints). It was worth accepting this lower salary for a limited time, but I would not have accepted it long term. For this reason, I would prefer not to state my current salary either.

The application system requires me to fill out these fields, but of course I could always write something like "negotiable" which amounts to a refusal to tell. I don't know if this is a good idea though.

In a UK context, what is the best way to proceed? Just put in the average of their stated salary range? Is it legal for them to require me to give this information? What would be the consequences if I refuse? Is this information used to choose one candidate over another?

I have seen "What should I state for "expected salary" in a tenure-track job application?" and I read the answers. I feel that they don't apply here, as the country and context make a difference.

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    Basically, I think you can write whatever you want. They don't have a legal or formal or even a practical way of forcing you to give them your actual current salary. – Dilworth Nov 8 '17 at 11:29
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    “The application system requires me to fill out these fields” — that part alone is legally questionable, to be honest. You’re not required to reveal your current salary in the UK, and having this as a required field could be seen an invalid requirement. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 8 '17 at 15:31
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    @Dilworth moreover, in certain US jurisdictions employers are now forbidden from asking about a job candidate’s current salary. See here. – Dan Romik Nov 8 '17 at 16:06
  • Can you even put in a string and not numbers? – Azor Ahai -- he him Nov 8 '17 at 17:42
  • @Azor-Ahai At least in one instance, no. But this question was not only about a single case. I have encountered this more than once with UK job calls, so I assumed that it was non uncommon practice there. – Fuller Nov 8 '17 at 18:04
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In my experience applying for, being hired for, and hiring for jobs in the UK the stated salary box matters a lot less than you're thinking. It isn't something that you are bound by at all, rather it gives them a sense of if you are serious about the position and are working within their possible range. They want to make sure they make an initial offer to you that you will consider, they aren't trying to bind you to a low ball figure.

Answer honestly for both what you make now and what you'd accept: expected salary should be what they would have to give you for you to say yes to the job. That number is negotiable later e.g. what if your current employer makes a counter offer to keep you and they want to counter that counter offer.

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    "Answer honestly for ... what you'd accept." The problem is that I don't yet know this. If I get an offer, I would put in the work to research the cost of living in the area, calculate taxes to estimate net salary, try to figure out things like whether my spouse is likely to find a job (visa constraints, etc.). Then if I judge that the salary provides us sufficient financial security, I'd accept. Frankly, the salary is among the least important things about a job for me, for as long as it provides sufficient security. But it's hard to find the time to do all this research before an offer. – Fuller Nov 8 '17 at 11:35
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    Since you say it's of low importance, I was thinking of just putting in what I make now, and the average of their stated range for the expected salary. (There's a reasonable chance that the lowest end of the range would be sufficient for me as well, but it does not seem like a good idea to write that.) – Fuller Nov 8 '17 at 11:36
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    Ahh see, this is their fear! Depending on the situation, it is often very complicated in the UK to offer a job to someone who needs a visa (e.g. like me), and when they offer you a position they do so having make a reasonable assumption that you will TAKE the job. They want you to have done that background research beforehand. One of the questions they will almost certainly ask is "if we offer you this job, will you take it" so be prepared for that one. – GrotesqueSI Nov 8 '17 at 11:41
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    Answer honestly for ... what you’d accept.” I think this is laughably naive. Economic negotiations are one area of life where (sadly) it often pays to be dishonest, or at least to withhold true information. When you buy a used car, do you tell the seller the maximum price you’d be willing to pay for it? When you sell one, do you tell the buyer the minimum price you’d accept? Of course not. I don’t have specific advice for OP, but this answer illustrates that academics’ tendency to be super-honest (a tendency I share, and generally support) can hurt them when followed too religiously. – Dan Romik Nov 8 '17 at 13:29
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    ... I should add that in my opinion there is no moral imperative to answer honestly to a question like this. The employer is not entitled to know what salary I expect, so when pressured to provide an answer to such a question I would either say “open to discussion” or strategically make up a number that I believe will best serve my negotiation purposes. Being honest is one thing (which I fully support), but being naive and letting other people walk all over you is a very different thing. – Dan Romik Nov 8 '17 at 13:34
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(This does not really answer the question of whether one can refuse to answer "expected salary": rather it is a suggestion to help answer that question in a reasonable way, if you choose to do so.)

Something that may be useful to be aware of is the "Higher Education Pay Spine" which most (many? some?) UK institutions adhere to:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/he_singlepayspine

In my (admittedly limited) experience, Lecturers are typically appointed at a point somewhere around 36 on this scale. Others may have different information: please say if you do!

(For particular universities, a bit of internet searching will often show that they use a different scale, but the one linked above gives the general idea.)

Depending on your level of experience, you may wish to adjust what you ask for, but at least this gives you some context to help calibrate your response.

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    This is less universal than it pretends. University of Cambridge uses very different salary scales, which leads me to believe that other Russell Group Universities will do likewise (the actual salary spine is the same or similar, modulo extension, but the numbering is different). – Konrad Rudolph Nov 8 '17 at 15:35
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    Looking at the pay spines for where you are applying is very good advice. demanding the top of grade 8 for a grade 7/8 lectureship when that isn't realistic based on your experience would make you look silly to whoever was reviewing this info. My Russel Group uni starts lecturers at spine 32 for grade 7 and spine 39 for grade 8. Grade 9 is senior lecturer and starts at spine 44. Our salaries mostly line up to the UCU rates listed (little higher actually). Cambridge notoriously underpays at a lower level (I say having received that low pay in the past). – GrotesqueSI Nov 8 '17 at 18:45
  • @KonradRudolph: I agree that this is not universal. For the OP's purposes, it will probably not be too hard to find out whether specific institutions they are applying to use this scale or their own version. In any case the UCU version gives some idea of the general "market rates". – Spiny Nov 9 '17 at 9:32
  • @GrotesqueSI You can say that again. Their salaries are insulting. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 9 '17 at 10:58
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If, as you say, they state a salary range on the job advert. Simply put that in the 'expected salary' box. Better yet, put the top-end of their stated salary in the box.

This site recommends the same approach

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  • +1 for an excellent link to an article that discusses this precise question (in a general setting not restricted to academia) in great detail. – Dan Romik Nov 9 '17 at 16:32

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