In an ideal world we’d all be paid equally for our work, and decisions about pay would be transparent and fair. We’d be recognised and rewarded for doing well immediately, and our salaries would be reviewed regularly without asking. But unfortunately that’s not always the case!
Asking for a pay rise can be awkward, but you’ll probably have to do it a few times over the course of your career. We explain how to approach it, and what to do with the money if you get one!
Find a reason for your pay rise
Your reasons for wanting a pay rise may be largely personal, but that probably won't fly with your employer. You have to prove you deserve more money. Here are four good reasons for getting a pay rise:
Minimum wage changes
You should always get at least the national minimum wage. The amount can change every year, as well as when you hit the ages of 18, 21 and 25 (or 19 if you’re an apprentice).
Smashing targets and getting lots of good feedback? Doing well at your job is a solid reason to ask for a pay rise.
With great responsibility comes great pay – or at least, it should. It’s worth asking for a pay rise and/or a promotion if you’re going above and beyond the duties in your job description.
Demand for your skills
Are other employers willing to offer you more money? Your company should aim to pay market rates, which can change over time. What’s more, gaining new skills or qualifications can boost your market value.
Work out what you’re worth
Next, decide how much you should ask for. Here are four things to consider:
Salary surveys and comparison tools like PayScale can give you an idea of what people in similar roles are earning. Glassdoor even shows you the average salary for people in similar roles. Just remember that market rates can vary between different industries and regions.
Your employer may have set a salary band for your role, like £25,500 to £27,300. This system is especially common in public sector organisations. You usually can’t earn more than the top figure without a promotion.
What your company can afford
For example, your employer might not be able to pay top rates if it’s small or just getting started. Consider asking for stakes in the company or a performance-related bonus instead – this means you’ll do well if the company does.
What your peers are earning
Know someone in a similar job? Consider asking them about their salary. This can help you find out if you’re underpaid, especially if you work at the same company. It might be awkward, but avoiding the topic only benefits your employer. And even if they try to discourage these conversations, your employer can’t legally stop you from discussing pay with your colleagues.
Ask for a pay review
See if your organisation has a formal process for pay rises. If not, ask your manager for a meeting. This shows you’re serious and gives you the opportunity to negotiate.
The best times to ask for a pay rise are generally:
Near the end of your company’s financial year
After the company announces good financial results
After you’ve hit a big target or completed a successful project
When your manager asks you to take on more responsibility
When your contract is renewed
Present a solid case
Ask for an exact figure
Avoid giving a range (like 5%-10%) as you’re more likely to get the lower figure. Go into the meeting knowing exactly what you want, and how you’re willing to compromise. What if your manager asks you to try again in six months? Or what if they agree as long as you take on more work? Try not to accept responsibilities you don’t want or agree to unrealistic targets.
Give hard evidence
Gathering some evidence can help to drive home your points. Consider researching:
Salary surveys and pay comparison reports
Positive feedback from colleagues or clients
A comparison of your current responsibilities and your job description
A list of your achievements – if possible, put these into numbers or link them to targets
Be clear and confident
During the meeting, it's worth bearing a few things in mind:
Focus on your value
Keep the discussion about what you bring to the company and avoid talking about your personal life.
Don't apologise for asking
Don’t apologise for wanting a pay rise – after all, you deserve it!
Thank your manager for their time and don’t threaten to leave unless you really mean it – and even then, tread lightly.
For example, you could ask “how close to my request can you get?” or “what do you think is a fair number?”. Their answers can help you understand their position.
Go over different scenarios with a friend or in front of the mirror. You can also write down useful phrases and memorise them – just try not to sound rehearsed.
If they say no
Didn’t get the pay rise you wanted? Ask for specific reasons why, when you can have another pay review, and what you can do to increase your chances next time. Whatever happens, try not to burn bridges – it’s ok to say you’re disappointed, but stay polite and professional.
Of course, you might decide to look for a better wages elsewhere. Changing jobs can offer a big jump in salary. People who moved jobs in 2018 saw their wages increase by 4.5%, while people who stayed put saw a pay rise of just 0.5%.
How to manage a bigger salary
If you got the pay rise you wanted, congrats! Before you go on a spending spree to celebrate:
Check when your pay rise comes into effect. Try not to spend money you don’t have yet, as this could get you into debt.
Work out what you'll be taking home. This is the amount you’ll see in your bank account, after things like income tax and student loans repayments have been taken off. You can estimate this using an online tax calculator or wait for your next payslip.
Next, decide what to do with your extra cash! Whether you want to stay sensible or splurge, here are a few ideas:
Get rid of debt. Are you paying high interest rates on things like credit cards or payday loans? That money could be put to better use – why not free it up by reducing the amount you owe.
Set it aside for an emergency. You could also use the extra money to build up a buffer for emergencies, so you can be prepared for unexpected expenses.
Save for the future. Think about bumping up your pension contributions or putting money away for a house deposit. You may find it easier to save by acting like your salary never changed. Just siphon off the extra money to a savings account and budget as normal.
Explore investing. If your pay rise means you’ve got more money in savings, you could consider investing some of it. Investing can be risky, but you can also stand to see your savings grow. Do some research and read beginner’s guides (like this one from Money Advice Service). Or look into tools like Wealthsimple or Moneybox.
Treat yourself! You know that shiny thing you’ve wanted forever? Maybe the time has finally come to make it yours. Because hey, you earned it.