Career Advice

How to ask for and get, a pay rise – even during a pandemic!

Shannon Barlow Posted by Shannon
min read
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​2020 was tough! Your expenses are piling up and a pay rise could really come in handy right about now! But is it the right time to ask? If you are a woman, chances are you find it hard enough to ask for a raise at the best of times, and this has not been the best of times! However, with the beast that is COVID tamed, business confidence is on the increase with a positive outlook for 2021 and many organisations are focused on hiring to leverage their strong position – global pandemic be damned! With sights on new talent, it is crucial for businesses to not just retain the good people they already have but to continue to nurture the employees that have helped them survive and now thrive through a crisis. So yes, maybe now is a good time to discuss salary. Here are some tips for taking away some of the awkwardness around the conversation, for you and your manager, and for getting what you are worth.


Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Many people, especially women, can be reluctant to ask for a pay rise. This may be due to imposter syndrome, being unsure of your professional worth, fear of refusal and dealing with the consequences of a pay rise rejection. You need to be aware of the possibility that you might not get what you ask for, but the benefits if you are successful far outweigh the potential effects of rejection, so prepare yourself and go for it!

Be objective and relevant

A salary review should be about your professional worth, not personal worth. Focus on professional achievements and performance rather than challenges/financial struggles in your personal life. You should state your case for a pay rise based on the value you bring to the business, rather than your needs. More about overachieving KPIs, winning a new client, improving processes to save time and money; less about upcoming school fees, mortgage repayments or even reining in credit card debt from all that online shopping during lockdown!

Know and acknowledge the market

You should consider if conditions in the market and in the business are right before asking for a pay increase. Is wage inflation tracking above CPI? If salaries are increasing more than inflation across the board, you have a good argument to increase your salary to keep up with the market. Now more than ever it is important to consider if the business is in a strong enough financial position to offer wage increases. You might not have access this information but a good place to start is to acknowledge measures taken to protect staff through COVID-19 and ask if they are open to salary reviews this year.

Prepare and practice

Prepare yourself with a plan for the discussion – this is not a situation for winging it! Gather evidence of your performance and other reasons to justify an increase. Use salary benchmarking information to show if you are underpaid. Give specific examples of overachievements or when you have taken on extra responsibilities. Have you been covering more than one role? Organise your ‘evidence’ into key talking points. An email asking for a meeting to discuss your salary with simple bullet points of your key talking points is a great way to bring up the subject in a way that allows your manager time to consider objectively and avoids a knee-jerk reaction. If you are still feeling nervous about the conversation, try practicing with a friend or in front of a mirror to make sure you cover off your main points.

Be negotiation ready

Have a figure in mind (that you can justify) and know your minimum. In this market be open to discussing alternative options if a salary increase is not feasible. Are there other benefits such as flexible working, car park, study grant that could improve your working conditions? Do not go in expecting to be rejected and then have no idea what to ask for if they are open to it. Equally, you don’t want to go in too hard, so it seems like you are giving an ultimatum. Remember you want to aim for an open, objective discussion, not emotional combat!