Because you’re worth it: how to ask for a pay rise

As well as more money in your pocket, a pay rise can also give you confidence, and an increased sense of pride and enjoyment in your work. But getting one is easier said than done. Here are five tips to increase your chances of success.

  1. Know your value

Your case for a pay rise starts with knowing the going market value for your skills. Since most of your colleagues will be as reluctant to tell you what they earn as you will be to ask them, you may need to look at the wider sector:

  • Browse job ads to see what other employers are paying for similar roles to your own.
  • Use our Salary Checker to compare your pay with real wage data for hundreds of individual occupations.
  • Find out whether your line of work carries a ‘market supplement’ – and if so, how much? (And don’t forget to factor in ‘London weighting’ if you live in the capital.)
  1. Make your case

Managers have to make budgets stretch as far as possible, making them naturally inclined to say no to your request. Your task is to make it unreasonable for them to do so. Even if they are ‘on your side’, they will still usually have to make your case to their manager or the HR department, so you need to make it easy for them to present on your behalf:

  • List your performance objectives and demonstrate how far you have exceeded your agreed targets.
  • Make your contribution tangible – prove how much you added to your organisation’s goals (financially or otherwise) with specific examples of what you personally have contributed.
  • Based on this, outline what your ongoing contribution will be (after all, you’re asking to be paid more for your future value to the team, not past achievements).
  • Say how much you want (aim high!), using the evidence that you have gathered about comparable pay.
  • Rehearse your arguments and think about the responses you might receive – and the persuasive, rational arguments with which you can counter them.

It can help your confidence to have another job lined up (particularly if someone else is offering you more money). However, don’t use this as an overt bargaining chip unless you are definitely prepared to jump ship if things don’t go your way – chances are your bluff will be called. (It’s also unfair to waste other organisations’ and job seekers' time by applying for jobs you have no intention of taking).

  1. Choose your moment

There’s a time, place and way to go about asking for a pay rise. Make sure you know the standard procedure within your organisation – for example, if your company has an appraisal system, this would be the appropriate forum in which to make your case. It goes almost without saying that you should consider it more carefully if there’s an ongoing recruitment freeze, redundancy process or financial problems where you work. You are also likely to get short shrift from your manager if you approach them during a major project or before an important deadline.

  1. Talk to your union rep

Every year, trade unions and their trained negotiators help win pay rises for their members, and in many workplaces that have a recognised union, pay negotiations are handled collectively, rather than pitting everyone individually against their employer in a battle for money. It works, and standing together makes a better case for everyone. Union members on average are paid more than their non-unionised counterparts (almost 20% more in the public sector). Unions can also provide members with individual advice and representation, so ask your union rep. Not all employers will allow reps to be present in individual pay meetings with you, but they may be able to help you construct a case. If you are interested in joining a union, use our Union Finder tool to see which one is best for you.

  1. Learn to take ‘no’ for an answer

If you get turned down for a pay rise, don’t take it to heart. The worst thing you can do is sulk, or worse still, resign in a fit of pique!

  • Get some constructive feedback. Find out why you were turned down – it might be that there is more you can do to prove yourself, and you may be able to agree steps with your manager to work towards it.
  • If you do feel hard done by, looking around while carrying on in your role. Having done your research to prove what you are worth, you now possess very useful information about the job market. (Click here for tips on how to begin your ‘creative search’ for better paid work.)

WorkSMART has lots more advice and information about getting a pay rise and going for promotion.