How to ask for a payrise

You’ve kept your nose to the grindstone and established your reputation, and now it’s time to think about your salary expectations. The good news is that UK earnings growth is strong – according to the Office for National Statistics, UK workers received an average pay increase of 3.3% at the end of 2018. That’s the highest rate since the financial crisis, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get an easy ride when asking for a pay rise. To justify the extra cash you’re asking the company to stump up, you’ll need to find the right time to plead your case, then prove you’ve earned it with a convincing business argument.

Take heart, though – you’ve been putting in the hard graft (of course!), so your hard work and experience are bound to have been noticed. What’s more, recruiting new staff takes time and money, especially since there’s a UK skills shortage – so employers are generally going to want to keep talented people on board.

To give you the best chance of convincing your boss of your true worth, we’ve broken down every stage of the negotiation process.

Are you underpaid?

We all feel undervalued sometimes, but before you ask for a raise, take the time to work out how your salary really ranks. That way, you’ll be cool, calm and collected in the meeting – and armed with the facts you need to make your case.

Things to consider

  • Supply and demand. Pay rates are dictated by the availability of suitable candidates, so find out whether your industry or local area is facing a skills shortage, as this tends to have the effect of pushing up pay rates.
  • Transferable skills. Remember, you’re not only valuing yourself for the job you’re in – you’re valuing your potential. Take the time to explore whether your skills could earn you more in another industry or role.
  • Experience. Do you have strong client relationships? Training experience? Are you the go-to person for insider knowledge? These things put you a cut above the rest, and you can make a case that they justify a higher-than-average salary.

Check your findings

  • Use a salary calculator. These use carefully coded algorithms, based on industry averages, to show you what you can reasonably expect to be earning.
  • Search for jobs. Use our online job search  to find out what’s typically on offer to candidates with your skills and experience. (Remember to search those transferable skills too!).
  • Speak to recruitment consultants. Local recruiters are experienced at negotiating deals for specific candidates and will have a strong idea of what businesses are willing to pay.

How to make a business case for your pay rise

Once you have a clearer idea of your value, it’s time to look at the specifics. Being able to explain exactly why you think you’re worth more is essential in convincing management to give you that pay raise.


Time to blow your own trumpet. Think about the quantifiable workplace results and certified qualifications you can bring to the table. Make sure you include the following:

  • Training and qualifications. Anything awarded by industry bodies like the CIPDor by academic institutions, in particular, will help the decision-makers get a handle on your net worth.
  • Technical skills.If you’re the only one able to work with certain software, you’re essential to the operation.
  • Job milestones. High sales figures, winning new clients or making financial savings show your indisputable value.
  • New innovations. Nobody’s indispensable, but if you helped introduce new software, systems or management structures, the company may be reliant on you to hold them together. That’s an added bargaining chip.

Soft skills

An employee’s value doesn’t lie solely in the facts and figures – soft skills count too. For instance:

  • Teamwork. A good manager or popular team member can make a department tick. If that’s you, make sure to give clear examples of your worth, such as any conflicts you helped to settle, or taking a new colleague under your wing.
  • Timekeeping. If you’re always at your desk on time (and manage your time well while you’re there), it shows dedication and sets others a positive example.
  • Flexibility. Today’s workplaces often require willingness to travel, work overtime where necessary, and adapt to client demands.

When to ask for a salary increase

Like so much in life, timing is everything when it comes to asking for a pay rise. To avoid seeming greedy, it’s best not to ask more than once a year, which makes it all the more important to pick your moment.

Pre-meeting preparations

Make sure you’re ready for negotiations well in advance. Tie up loose ends like unfinished projects, tasks you’ve put on hold, or even just tidying your desk – anything that looks less than perfect, basically.

Be proactive. Think about your role and try to note ideas about your future at the company. If you’re on good terms with other senior staff, you could ask them to email your boss with positive feedback about your work.

When is the right time to ask for a pay rise?

Your performance review is a great time to bring this up – especially if you’re pulled off any impressive accomplishments since your last review. The end of a financial or calendar year is another good time to talk about pay, as these are times when the business is already assessing results and making forecasts and might be more amenable to making salary increase decisions.

What to do when the right moment doesn’t arrive

Sometimes there just isn’t a natural moment to ask for a pay rise. If you have to schedule a meeting yourself, try to:

  • book at least half an hour with your boss for a proper discussion
  • avoid meeting close to project deadlines or other stressful date
  • meet just after lunch – after the morning stress and before the afternoon starts in earnest
  • avoid mentioning pay when you book the meeting, to minimise the chances of it being put off.

How to present your pay request

It’s natural to be nervous, but you’ve prepared your case and there are plenty of ways to stay in control on the day too. The following dos and don’ts will keep you on track.

What to say

  • Open the meeting by talking about the skills and successes you’ve documented – without bragging. It’s about being constructive.
  • Ask for more than you expect, but don’t be unreasonable. You don’t want them to agree immediately and be left wondering if you could have got more, nor do you want to seem greedy and ill-informed.
  • Don’t threaten to quit unless pay really is a deal-breaker for you. Be ready to listen and compromise. There may be good reasons why they can’t agree to your requests just yet.

What to expect

  • There’s bound to be some resistance, so be prepared to fight your corner – but don’t overdo it. Try to relax and deal with their response as it comes.
  • It’s unlikely you’ll get an answer right away. Generally, the bigger the company you work for, the longer the process will take. Although you shouldn’t try to rush things, it’s reasonable to ask to be kept up to date.
  • If you’re considering your options, or have a job offer on the table (and are feeling brave!), you could give your boss a deadline for their answer. It applies pressure and may make them more likely to act. Be careful though – they might call your bluff.

Alternative expectations – promotions, benefits and perks

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, most workers nowadays care more about meaning and fulfilment than money. If that’s you, then discussing a pay rise can also be a great time to talk about career progression or work-life balance. Even if it’s all about cold hard cash, you may find you get more value from benefits outside of base salary.

Role changes

If your boss can’t offer more money, they may be able to improve your working life in other ways, so be open to discussions in the following areas:

  • Workplace development. You may be offered training to reach the next level in your career.
  • Work-life balance. This could mean more flexible working hours, more holiday or the ability to work from home.
  • New responsibilities. Taking on a new challenge or making your job description clearer and less stressful can make your role much more pleasant.

Company benefits

These are non-cash forms of remuneration that can sometimes work out even better than a salary increase, depending on your situation. They might include:

  • Performance-related bonuses. These may be delivered when you hit certain targets.
  • Pension contributions. Increased pension payments now could have a big impact on your retirement funds later.
  • Company car. This can be a useful perk if you don’t want sole responsibility for financing, maintaining and upgrading your vehicle.
  • Travel allowances. Some companies will cover the cost of public transport.
  • Private health or life insurance and gym memberships can be a worthwhile perk.

It’s worth bearing in mind that some of these contributions are taxed – check the GOV.UK benefit tax guide for more info.

What to do if you don’t get a pay rise

If your request is refused, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. There are still tried-and-tested pathways to greater recognition and reward, whether you’re looking for more money or considering how to get a promotion.

Professional study is a great way to improve employability and earning power. Try asking your boss if they’re willing to invest in your development instead. If they are, your career path could open up once more. Alternatively, local colleges and universities have plenty of practical courses. Local job centres, industry-specific organisations and unions can all help you get the qualifications you need to improve your prospects. They may even help you retrain for a new role, or a new industry entirely.

How to ask for a pay rise – eight short steps to success

  1. Calculate your market value by comparing your job with similar roles elsewhere.
  2. Build a business case around quantifiable, demonstrable skills, qualifications and workplace results.
  3. Tie up any loose ends that could count against you, like unfinished projects.
  4. Time your request to fit in with employee appraisals or company year-end. Your boss will be in a better position to make a decision.
  5. Make sure you arrange a meeting of at least half an hour with your boss, ideally during a stress-free spell, so you have enough time and energy to make your argument.
  6. Present your case clearly and unemotionally, being reasonable and ready to compromise throughout the meeting.
  7. Consider any offers seriously, benefits, perks and on-the-job training may be just as valuable as a salary increase.
  8. Plan your next steps, just in case your request is refused. That could involve new training and study or looking for a better role elsewhere.

If you’re looking to advance your actuarial career or simply seek advice on how to improve your skill set, get in touch by calling +44 (0)20 3773 2321 or email to arrange a confidential and informal chat.

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