The cost of living is soaring, and getting a pay rise may be one way you can ease the pressure on your finances.

However, asking for a salary increase from your employer can be tricky, particularly when difficult economic times are seeing plenty of companies cut back on their staff and spending. Most of us are more likely to reduce our spending than ask for a pay rise. When asked what they would do if inflation meant they could no longer afford their lifestyle, 49% of people said they would cut back on energy use, 37% would give up their holidays and just 5% would ask for a pay rise, according to a recent Ipsos Mori survey. Even so, if you don’t ask, you often don’t get, and if you’re willing to try, there are ways to increase your chances of success. 

Here, we consider how you might go about asking for a pay rise, and how you can negotiate the highest salary possible if you’re looking for a new job.

Think about timing

The timing of your request for a pay rise is as important as how you ask for one. A good time might be, for example, if you’re offered a promotion, or during your annual performance review. Depending on where you work and your role, you may also be aware of when your company does their budgets for the year, so it’s usually a good idea to ask before these are finalised. 

In general, though, if you know you’re doing a good job, and regularly receive praise, this puts you in a strong position to negotiate an increase.

Do your research

Depending on your industry and particular role, you may already have an idea of what you should expect to be paid. 

However, it may be useful to use one of the many job sites to check how much people are paid for similar roles. For example, Linkedin’s salary checker, Glassdoor’s checker, and Indeed’s Salary checker are just a few examples. If your salary falls well below the average paid for your particular role, and you are unsure of the reason why you’re paid less, you can use this as one of your reasons for seeking a raise. It may also be worth talking to recruitment consultants to ask how much people in similar positions are currently being paid. 

Bear in mind, though, that sometimes your salary may be lower than others in the same industry and role if you’re working for a start-up with limited cash flow, for example. Larger, more well-established companies that have grown in value over many decades may have more cash to spare that can be put towards things like pay rises.

Be realistic

Even if you believe you are significantly underpaid, demanding an enormous increase is unlikely to go down well. The cost of living is rocketing, with rising costs, recession fears and falling stock markets are forcing some companies to make cutbacks. If you’re going to ask for a pay rise, it needs to be a realistic amount that your company is likely to be able to afford in the current difficult economic climate.

Consider your experience

Bear in mind that if you’ve been in your current role for several years, you’re more likely to be an important member of the team with experience that is highly valued. It’s also useful to remember that hiring a new employee is generally expensive and time-consuming for employers, as they won’t have your experience. This puts you in a strong bargaining position if you’ve been at the company some time and proved your worth.

Speak to your colleagues

Money is generally considered a taboo subject, and your salary is a topic that you’re unlikely to have ever brought up with your colleagues. But if you have colleagues that you consider friends, and are worried you’re being underpaid, you may feel comfortable bringing the subject up. 

The 2010 Equality Act gives you the right to discuss your salary with co-workers, although they might not want to be open about how much they earn. Remember that if they are, it’s important you make fair comparisons. For example, they may be doing a similar role, but they could be paid more because they have more experience or a greater level of responsibility. If there’s no difference between you, or the difference is simply your gender or age, then you should definitely raise this with your employer. Find out more about the gender pay gap in our article Gender pay gap at its widest for those in their 50s. 

Request more responsibility

You could request more responsibility in your role, as doing so may give you the opportunity to ask for a salary rise. Alternatively, it may be the case that you’ve already got more responsibility than expected if you consider your original job description. After all, if you’re doing a great job it can be easy for your to-do list to rapidly grow, and even become unmanageable if you’re not careful. But if you are in this situation, it’s perfectly reasonable to request a pay rise to reflect the additional work you’re doing.

Increase your qualifications

The more skills you have to offer, the more valuable you may be as an employee. There are plenty of free courses online that can expand your skillset, and give you a greater chance of securing a pay rise. For example, Rest Less has a wide range of free, discounted and paid courses to choose from, so that you can start learning a new skill today. You may want to improve your current skills, or choose from new ones that could potentially help you improve your salary in your current or future roles.

Ask for reviews and prove your worth

Before asking for a rise, make sure you’re putting the work in to show that you are worthy of a pay increase. Part of this process is asking for feedback from your manager on how you’re doing, demonstrating that you’re taking this on board, and doing the best you can in your role.

While it’s important to highlight what you are doing well, however, it’s also good to look forward, and present your ideas for the future, as well as accepting that there may be ways you can do your job better.

Think about your delivery

You need to be sure of your reasons for asking for a pay rise, so you can present your case to your employer confidently and clearly. You may be nervous, but it’s important to make eye contact, and speak slowly and deliberately to ensure you don’t appear uncomfortable or insecure about your request. Our article 7 powerful ways to conquer self-limiting beliefs may help you better understand yourself and improve your confidence. 

Claire Mackenzie, a career transition coach working with mid-to-late career professionals helping them to navigate work and life transitions, said: “We all have an inner critic that can hold us back and stop us getting what we want. Your mind may start making up stories about why you don’t deserve a rise, so beware of negative self talk, and challenge it with positive and reaffirming thoughts.”

Consider your whole package

Remember that having a job isn’t just about your salary. Many employers offer generous employee benefits packages, which can be extremely valuable. These may include employee contributions to your pension that are higher than the current auto-enrolment minimum limit, private medical insurance, employee discounts and other benefits such as employee share schemes. Therefore, instead of a salary rise, or if your request for higher pay is refused, you may be able to negotiate alternative benefits instead.

Consider a job change

If you’re getting nowhere with your request for a salary rise, and you feel overworked, unsatisfied and underpaid in your role, it may be time to consider looking for another job. Bear in mind that you don’t have to climb the career ladder to increase your salary. It may be, for example, that you can make a sideways move in the same industry, such as moving from publishing into in-house copywriting. 

Alternatively, you may be forced into looking for another job through redundancy, which can be an unsettling time, but also present the opportunity for change. Find out more in our section What should I do if I’m made redundant?

Tips for asking for a pay rise

Prepare your case: Take some time to think of reasons why you deserve a salary rise. To solidify these in your mind it’s worth writing them down, and reading them to yourself or out loud to ensure you’re confident when you come to talk to your employer.

Think about how you’d compromise: If you’re hoping for a pay rise of 5%, you might want to think about asking for 10% and be willing to meet in the middle. If your request for a pay rise is refused, consider if there are any other benefits that are worth asking for. Perhaps you’d like more flexibility to work from home, for example, more holiday, or simply more support from your manager. If you’re feeling particularly stressed with too many responsibilities, ask if you can share the load with some of your colleagues. 

Request a meeting in person, or by video call: Make sure to give your boss some warning by requesting a meeting and saying that you’d like to talk about a pay rise. Ideally, the meeting will be in person, but it may also be via a video call if you’re working from home. Alternatively, and depending on how busy your boss is, and your relationship with them, you may feel it’s best to put the reasons why you believe you should receive a salary rise in an email. 

Present your case confidently: How much of a rise do you want, exactly, and why? What are your reasons for asking? What skills and achievements do you have that mean you should receive an increase? Think about the language you use to convey this too. Mackenzie said: “Be mindful of turns of phrase/language that undermines the impact of what you are communicating, such as “I just wanted”, “Does that make sense?” and “Would you mind if…”

Demonstrate your value: It’s worth having some examples that show you’re an important team member who contributes value to the company. This may be, for example, particular projects you’ve done, or positive feedback you’ve received. 

Give them time to respond: Once you’ve stated your reasons, give your boss time to prepare their response. It may be that they need to consider the company’s budget, for example, or speak to others before agreeing to a rise. Don’t demand that your boss respond by a specific deadline.

Consider talking to a life coach: When you’re making changes in life, it can be difficult to see your way through. Working with a life coach can help you discover and articulate your goals, uncover possible blos, and put strategies in place to achieve your outcomes. 

If you think working with a life coach could help you, take a look at the packages below. You can also book a free 30 minute discovery call with one of our life coaches to discuss your options.

Have you recently asked for a pay rise, or have you any tips for doing so that you’d be willing to share? We’d be interested in hearing from you. You can join the money conversation on the Rest Less community or leave a comment below.


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