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How to ask for a pay rise: Your five-point checklist

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Workers have suffered one of the largest falls in real wage growth since the turn of the century as inflation continues to play havoc with the economy. Here are five tips to negotiate a pay rise.

It’s a mixed picture for workers as on one hand, growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 6% while growth in regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 5.4% in the three months to August 2022.

While this is the strongest growth in regular pay seen outside of the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), once inflation is factored in, workers have witnessed one of the largest wage falls in real terms since records began.

Inflation rebounded to 10.1% in the year to September, following a slight dip to 9.9% in August.

Once the August inflation figure is factored in, workers have seen total pay fall by 2.4% and regular pay fall 2.9%.

While this is slightly smaller than the record fall in the quarter to June (3%), “it still remains among the largest falls in growth since comparable records began in 2001”, the ONS said.

Closing the gap between pay growth and inflation

For Sheila Attwood, pay and benefits editor at XpertHR, it’s not the case that pay can’t closely follow higher rates of inflation.

She says: “In August 1990, RPI stood at 10.6% but pay awards rose to 9.4%. This indicates that although falling short, employers have in the past kept up with high inflation.

“The inability for earnings to keep pace with inflation has created hardship for many employees, but there are a number of practices being adopted aimed at easing this. Although in their minority, organisations are helping in the following ways:

  • Offering an additional pay increase mid-way through the year. A services company gave pay increases in both January and April “reflecting the volatile inflation situation”; while another followed its April pay increase with a further rise in August due to the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Giving a non-consolidated payment to employees. A services organisation paid £1,000 to each employee as a cost-of-living payment; while another with an April 2022 review date said that it had made some one-off cost-of-living payments in July on top of its April increase.
  • Consolidated payments. A manufacturer added an additional 2% to its merit budget for additional consolidated increases to reflect the current “extraordinary circumstances”.
  • Bringing forward the annual pay review. A manufacturing company awarded pay increases three months ahead of the January 2022 review date; while another moved forward the increase due in July and paid it in May 2022.

Five top tips when asking for a pay rise

If you are looking for a straight and permanent wage increase, you may consider asking for a pay rise.

Attwood says: “There has been an increase in pay rises in the last year, but these are being eaten away by high inflation. Employees approaching their employer for a pay increase should consider the following:

1) Think about the timing of your request

If your employer has particular business cycles, look to fit your request around these. For example, if you know that there is typically an organisation-wide pay review in April, speak to your manager in the months running up to this, rather than just after when they are less likely to be able to facilitate another increase.

2) Book time with your manager

A pay rise request is best approached in person, and at a time set aside, rather than squeezed onto the end of a meeting about something else. Give yourself time to set out your request, and for your manager to respond.

3) Evidence your request

If you can show that your role is underpaid compared with your peers, this can help your request progress up the decision chain. While your manager may support a pay increase, they are likely to have to secure approval from others, so provide evidence that they can use too.

4) Demonstrate your worth

Don’t just rely on salary information for roles similar to yours, but be able to demonstrate what you personally bring to the role and the business.

5) Ask for feedback if rejected

If your employer is unable to fulfil your request, ask for information on why that is, and what (if anything) you can do to change things. By understanding what is required, you have a better chance of your next request succeeding.