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How to ask for a pay rise (the complete 2024 guide)

All the tips you need for negotiating a salary increase or pay raise.

Banish those nerves about asking for more money!

A woman sitting on a couch, wearing glasses and a white shirt, looking happy and triumphant while using a laptop. She has her fists raised in excitement, with a large plant and a brick wall in the background.

When you work hard and go above and beyond your job description or outperform your colleagues, it’s natural to want a decent pay rise. Apart from needing to pay the bills, money is a sign of your value to the organisation, and feeling under-appreciated can negatively impact your confidence.

Yet negotiating a pay rise can be nerve-wracking. Deciding when to approach your boss, how much to ask for, and what to say all needs careful thought.

So we’ve spoken to some of the best employment experts in the business to bring you all the information you need. And if you decide to move on, we’ve got that covered too – with how to negotiate a higher salary during the hiring process.

Should I ask for a pay rise?

If you believe you deserve a pay rise, don’t be afraid to raise the issue – particularly if you haven’t had one for more than a year.

Career coach Corinne Mills of Personal Career Management says:

“Lots of people complain about their salary but do nothing. If you want more money, you need to prepare a business case and approach your manager.”

If you lack confidence in your abilities, personal and executive coach Dr Sally Ann Law suggests re-reading your performance reviews.

“We often forget and take for granted the things we’ve done well, instead focusing on the not-so-good things. Reminding yourself of your achievements is a great confidence booster – and you’ll want to talk about your positive track record in the meeting too.”

If just raising the subject of pay makes you feel nervous, Dr Sally Ann’s advice is to work out how you’re going to start the conversation.

“When we’re nervous it’s often the first few sentences that trip us up. If you’re going to ask your boss for a meeting in person, decide on the words you will use and practice saying them out loud. Get off to a good start, and it will give you confidence for the rest of the meeting.”

Corinne adds:

“As long as you’re professional about it, you have nothing to lose. Even if your request is declined, you will have reminded your boss of your achievements and opened up a dialogue – ready to review your pay again in six or 12 months’ time.”

How you go about asking will depend on whether you work in the public or private sector. Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, explains.

“In the public sector, most workers see their pay rise through unions agreeing a deal, or management agreeing a pay rise. This is worked out by central or local collective reward bargaining, or by a pay review body. Depending on where you are in your grade, you will get a service-related increment until you reach the top of your band. If you want more, you either have to show that your job belongs in a higher-pay band through a pay evaluation, or get a promotion.”

In contrast, private sector workers are more likely to get a rise based on their performance. However, there are exceptions.

“Some local authorities use performance-related pay, so if you’re considered a star performer you’ll get a higher pay award,”

adds Charles.

How do I find out if I’m underpaid?

Before you sit down with your boss, research what colleagues on a similar level earn, as well as those in comparable positions at similar-sized organisations. This way you can argue that your current pay is not in-line with competitive market rates.

The first step is to look at the totaljobs Salary Checker. It allows you to compare the average pay for any job or industry within any location in the UK. Simply enter your job title and location to see the average salary, plus the highest and lowest rates for that role based on recent job ads on totaljobs.

Recruitment consultancies also frequently carry out salary surveys, as do professional bodies and trade magazines.

Next, check to see what similar roles pay on the totaljobs jobs board. With more than 150,000 jobs across a wide range of industries, it’s a great way to see what similar roles pay in your area. Also check relevant industry-specific jobs boards, such as Caterer.com for those in hospitality and CWJobs for IT.

Just be careful when comparing like-for-like.

“Similar-sounding job titles can have very different levels of seniority at some companies, salary may differ regionally, and remuneration packages that include bonuses can be deceptive,”

warns David Clift, HR Director at Totaljobs Group.

Specialist recruitment firms operating in your sector are another good source of information, and don’t forget to check your firm’s job ads to see the pay for similar roles.

“It tends to be newer people who are on higher salaries. If you have been with your current employer for a few years, you may find that your wage has fallen behind,”

says Charles Cotton.

When it comes to asking what colleagues are paid, tread carefully. Some employment contracts include a clause which prevents staff from disclosing information about pay to third parties. However, this is unenforceable if your purpose for asking is to discover a pay discrimination – on the grounds of age, gender, or race, for example.

Nick Smith, Head of Employment at Mincoffs solicitors, explains.

“You are within your legal rights to disclose your pay for that purpose to your colleagues, or ask your colleagues how much they get paid, and it is unlawful for your employer to victimise you for doing so, or your colleagues for complying with your request.”

Money can be a sensitive issue, so don’t be surprised if your colleagues don’t want to reveal what they earn. Even if they do, think twice before using it as leverage.

“Taking that kind of information to your manager can make you appear unprofessional,”

warns David.

“You don’t want it to seem like you’ve been gossiping. My advice is to talk about salary benchmarking in general terms only – without naming names.”

How often should I get a pay rise?

Workers in the UK are not legally entitled to a pay rise each year, even an incremental rise in line with inflation. Instead, it’s up to employers to choose whether – and when – to increase staff pay. However, in order to hold on to good employees, most companies recognise the need to at least give incremental rises every 12 months.

Most organisations follow a formal process – according to an annual compensation survey by Mercer, 90%  of companies give everyone raises on the same day, once a year.

“Some firms increase pay in January because their financial year runs from December to January. Others follow the tax year, which starts at the beginning of April,”

says Charles Cotton of the CIPD.

In smaller organisations, pay may not be decided at the same time for everyone, but is reviewed yearly depending on when you joined the company.

“Pay reviews in small businesses tend to be more ad hoc”

explains Charles.

“You may not get a pay increase for two or three years, simply because your employer has not thought about your salary – so if you haven’t had a rise for a while, it’s worth asking.”

Generally, you can expect to get (or ask for) an incremental pay rise every 12 months. If you want a rise sooner, you need a compelling case – i.e. your role or responsibilities have changed significantly. In this instance, you may be better off arguing  for a promotion.

Am I being paid the correct National Minimum Wage?

Although you are not legally entitled to a pay rise, if you are working for the minimum wage it is worth checking its current rate. Different rates apply to different categories of workers. If you are unsure what rate applies to you, you can check it on the UK government website.

Any changes come into effect from 1 April – and employers are legally required to pay the rates set out by the government. For example, since 1 April 2024, the minimum wage for anyone aged 21 or over is £11.44 an hour, and this is called the National Living Wage.

“If your pay hasn’t increased in line with the minimum wage talk to your employer first,”

advises solicitor Nick Smith.

“Your employer should pay you the balance of the underpaid wages immediately. If that does not help, put your request in writing. If they still refuse to pay, you may complain to the HMRC who can enforce your right against your employer on your behalf, and/or issue a claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal (e.g. for an unlawful deduction from wages; and/or breach of contract).”

What is the average UK pay rise?

A 2024 report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that employers were planning to offer the smallest pay rise this year since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CIPD, the average salary increase has been around 5% for more than a year, but in 2024 it’s expected to fall to 4%.

Could I get fired for asking for a raise?

No.

The law is clear, you cannot be sacked for asking for a pay rise.

“And if your employer terminates your employment because you request a pay rise to bring your wages in line with the national minimum wage, such dismissal will automatically be deemed unfair by the employment tribunals regardless of how long you have been in the employment,”

adds Nick Smith of Mincoffs solicitors.

How to ask for a pay rise (and get it)

The best way to ask for a pay rise is in person. A face-to-face request is harder to turn down than one made in writing – and if nothing else, broaching the subject in person shows you are serious.

Meeting with your manager allows you to gauge their reaction and make counter-arguments and negotiate – send an email and you won’t get that opportunity.

Even though it’s best to ask in person, writing down your arguments is a good idea. It helps to organise your thoughts, and you can email your manager after the meeting – thanking them for their time and reiterating your main points.

“Very rarely in business today will a line manager be empowered to sanction a pay rise after one meeting. If your boss has a document outlining your arguments, it will help them to recommend your request to senior management,”

says Dominic Vaughan, negotiation expert and COO of Advantage Spring.

If you decide to put  your case in writing, read the section on ‘How to ask for a raise in writing’, which includes a sample template letter.

Who should I ask for a pay rise?

If you want a pay rise, approach your line manager first.

“If you can’t convince your boss, going over their head is never a good idea,”

warns career coach Corinne Mills.

However, many large organisations have a pay review body, where you may need to go through a formal process to convince them that your role is on a different grade and therefore should attract a different salary.

“Even then it’s helpful to have the support of your boss who will be asked to validate your claim. Remember, you need to retain good relations with your manager whatever the outcome of your request. Even if you intend to leave and find a new job, you’ll still want a good reference.”

What is the best time to ask for a pay rise?

An annual performance review is a good time to request more money – as is the end of your company’s financial year. If you know that salary raises are finalised in January, asking in December is too late, as the budget will have already been set.

You don’t have to wait for your annual pay review, you can raise the issue any time. There’s no ‘perfect’ moment, but some occasions are better than others (a survey conducted in 2005 suggested managers are most receptive to salary review requests on a Wednesday).

Best times to ask for a pay rise:

  • After the completion of a successful project you were involved in.
  • When your employer announces positive financial results.
  • Your contract is ending, and the company wants to renew it.
  • Your manager asks you to take on more responsibility.
  • A comparatively quiet time in your boss’s schedule.

Worst times to ask for a pay rise:

  • Following poor financial results, or the loss of a major contract.
  • After the company has announced a pay or recruitment freeze.
  • Monday morning or a particularly busy time in the quarter.
  • Friday afternoon, when your boss is thinking about the weekend.

How to request a meeting to discuss a pay rise

How you decide to request a pay rise will depend on your boss and the kind of relationship you have with them. Raising the subject informally – at a bar after work, for example – might get results for some, but most managers prefer a formal approach.

Dominic says:

“Don’t wait until your manager is at the coffee machine to sidle over and say, ‘I wonder if you have five minutes to spare, I’d like to discuss my pay’.

“Give your request the status it deserves – the meeting is the beginning of a process and deserves a 45-minute slot in your manager’s diary. You have a genuine need to discuss something important to you. Don’t be apologetic in wanting to discuss the matter.”

Be sure to tell your manager what the meeting is about – no one likes to be put on the spot.

What to say in a pay rise meeting

Start by thanking your manager for their time and tell them how much you enjoy the job. Then move on to highlighting your achievements over the past 12 months – and briefly outline how you will contribute to the company in future.

At this point, you should reference your research on salary benchmarking – stating what employees in a similar role earn elsewhere and at your own company.

Dominic suggests something like:

‘As Account Director I am excelling in my role against all KPIs and deliverables. In the open market my worth is X, which is Y% above my current pay. I’d like to discuss how we can close the gap’.

Say again how much you value being part of the team – but make it clear that it’s important to you that your salary is in line with the market.

Be careful about the words you use. “Use clear sentences and avoid soft language,” warns Dominic. “If you say, ‘I’m looking to get,’ or ‘I’m hoping for,’ it suggests, ‘But I don’t expect to get it’.

State the figure you want.

“Hedging your bets by saying, ‘I was thinking of somewhere maybe in the region of X,’ makes it seem like you lack confidence in your own worth. If you have done your research, you know what amount is appropriate – so ask for it.”

Throughout the conversation, keep the focus on making rational arguments and avoid showing emotion. Your boss doesn’t need to know – or care – that you want the money to buy a new house, and pleading won’t win you any favours.

What reasons should I give when asking for a raise?

If you’re thinking about how to ask about a pay rise, you’re going to need to win your manager over – and this means you need to build a strong case.  That means demonstrating your value to the company and highlighting your worth in the market.

“Look at it from your boss’s point of view,”

says career coach Corinne Mills.

“They need to be convinced that the business should invest more of its budget in you – and then they need to justify that decision to senior management.”

Firstly, re-read your job description or contract and list the ways that you exceed in the role and deliver exceptional results. Then note down examples of your contribution to the company and how you have outperformed your colleagues.

Corinne’s advice is to quantify your contributions as much as possible.

“Perhaps you have exceeded targets by X amount or attracted Y number of new clients to the business. Maybe you have implemented a new process or saved the department money by going outside the remit of your role.”

Charles Cotton of the CIPD adds:

“A manager is going to evaluate what value you bring to the organisation. They will consider what you have contributed over the past 12 months, what would happen if you left the organisation, and how easy it would be to replace you.”

Good employees are expensive to replace, and it’s worth emphasising your experience and commitment to the company.

“Just don’t ask for a pay rise based on length of service alone,”

warns Corinne.

“An employer will be more receptive if you are doing a great job and/or you are tricky to replace – not just because you’ve stuck around.”

Say what you plan to contribute to the company in the next year (making sure your promises are realistic and achievable). The aim is to convince your employer that any investment made in you now will be more than worth it.

How to deal with nerves when asking for pay increase

If you feel anxious about asking for a pay rise, you’re not alone. According to a salary survey conducted by Totaljobs, 67% of employees say they don’t feel comfortable requesting a pay increase, with 31% admitting they lack the confidence to raise the subject.

As with job interviews, research is key. The more prepared you feel going into the meeting, the less nervous you’ll be.

“Know what you are asking for – a set amount or a percentage increase – and anticipate your manager’s reaction and any objections they may throw at you,”

advises Dominic.

If you feel nervous, practice in front of a mirror or ask a friend to give you feedback on your tone of voice and speed of delivery.

Body language is important.

“Don’t click a pen, tap your foot, or allow your hands to fidget. At best these are a distraction, at worst it will seem you have no confidence in your request.

“Sit up straight and lean in slightly. This will help project confidence. Speak politely and look your manager in the eye,”

adds Dominic.

How to negotiate a pay rise

Pay rises are awarded on individual merit but will also be benchmarked against other employees in the company and the marketplace. Once you know how your salary compares, you can request a pay increase to bring you in line with the going rate.

To find how much of a raise you should ask for, read the previous section on ‘How do I find out if I’m underpaid?’

According to negotiation expert Dominic Vaughan, you should reference the market, but steer clear of talking about specific colleagues, instead benchmarking against your pay grade/level. “Otherwise it can come across as too personal”.

You want to ask for what seems a reasonable raise. Don’t go too low (you’ll regret it if your manager agrees too readily) but don’t go too high either, as you risk appearing arrogant. Instead, open ambitiously by asking for a little more than you require – knowing that your boss will negotiate down.

The number you open with is also important.

“Asking for a 10% pay rise sounds like it’s been plucked out of thin air – asking for 9.7% sounds as though you have done your  research and market benchmarking and know what you are on about,”

says Dominic.

If your employer feels your request is too high, you can offer to take on more responsibility for extra money, but don’t over-promise. A better option is to be flexible.

“You will never win an argument in a negotiation,” says Dominic. “The viewpoints of both sides are absolutely valid to them – all that happens is that people dig their heels in. The best approach is to ask for movement on your request, so perhaps moving from your opening of 9.7% to 8.7%.”

Alternatively ask questions to gauge your boss’s appetite to move towards you. For example, ask how close to 9.7% the business could get to. Be prepared for your manager to come back to you with an offer – the larger the organisation, the longer the process can take.

Whatever happens, think very carefully before using another job offer as leverage.

“Any threat you make you must be prepared to see through, or your credibility and negotiating power will be undermined,”

warns Dominic.

No matter how talented you are, it’s very rare for an employee to be truly indispensable. If you resign and then change your mind, your employer is under no obligation to take you back. In you find yourself in such a that position, read our guide to retracting a resignation.

Dominic adds:

“If you ultimately feel that no movement on pay means you will have to seek employment elsewhere, say something like: ‘If you are not able to provide me with a pay rise that’s very disappointing as I’d love to stay, but you have left me with some thinking to do’.”

Even if you decide to get another job, it’s important to remain professional at all times. Not only do you want a good reference, but you may cross paths with your manager again in the future – and you should never burn your bridges in business.

How to ask for a raise in writing

If you decide to ask for a pay rise in writing, see the section below on ‘How to write a pay raise request letter / email’.

How should I thank my boss for a pay raise?

Congratulations – you have secured the salary increase you want. It is good manners to send your manager an email or a thank you letter for the pay rise.

How to write a pay raise request letter / email

If you decide to ask for a pay rise in writing, follow the advice on how to build a compelling case given previously. See the section on ‘What reasons should I give when asking for a raise?’

Briefly, your salary increase proposal should contain your job title, current salary, and how long you have been at the company.

Totaljobs HR Director, David Clift says: Highlight your achievements in the role, noting any changes to your original job description, and benchmark your salary against the market rate. State the increase you want – either a salary amount or percentage increase and say how this will bring you in line with the market rate.

“End by expressing how much you enjoy working at the company, and what you aim to contribute over the next 12 months.”

Launch in email

Dear [Manager’s name],

I am writing to request a formal review of my current salary. As a [your job title] at [your employer], I have taken on a number of additional responsibilities during the past five years and have an excellent performance record.

I believe my recent achievements, along with industry average salaries, will demonstrate justification for an increase of [X%] in my annual pay. My role has evolved since starting with [your employer]. Added duties now include client sourcing and project management. In the past year, I have achieved the following:

  • Secured 3 new clients for the company, helping to bring in £X per annum.
  • Managed the successful launch of our X product, on budget and on time.
  • Introduced a new process in the X team, saving the company £X in annual revenue.

The average annual salary for my position is £X, according to data from X salary survey. This is more than 12% higher than my current salary of £X.

A 10% rise in my salary would bring my compensation in line with the going market rate for this region of the UK.

I would like to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy working at the company – and how I’m looking forward to contributing to its continued success in the future. Namely, managing the X project.

I look forward to discussing the matter with you further.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]

What should I do if my pay rise request is turned down?

A common response is for your manager to say that the business is already over its annual budget. If your boss agrees you’re a star performer, but there’s no money available right now, be persistent and set a date to review the situation.

If your boss doesn’t think your performance warrants a pay rise, keep calm and ask them to agree some clear objectives. You can then work towards these and ask to review your performance at an agreed date.

“You could also say that you would like to put together a more robust business case for your pay rise, and ask for your manager’s buy-in to review and support it. Try to understand what the barriers are to the pay rise so that you can dismantle them,”

suggests Dominic.

If there genuinely isn’t any cash, consider if there are any perks you want, which may not be difficult for your boss to grant. For example, working from home two days a week, extra holiday allowance, a bigger office, time out of work to attend networking events. Perhaps you could negotiate other employee benefits, such as subsidised travel costs or gym membership.

Even if there is no money in the salary budget, there may be cash for training. Developing your skills will increase your worth at the company (or another organisation) – giving you more bargaining power when you come to negotiate again.

If the company still won’t give you a pay rise, it could be time to change jobs.

HR Director David Clift says:

“If you’re not developing your skills and there’s no chance for promotion, then it’s time to research other opportunities.

“Negotiating a higher salary is always easier at the job offer stage, when an employer is keen to secure your services. Have confidence in your achievements and your worth in the market, and you may get the salary increase you wanted – or even more.”

Jobseeker FAQs

How do you politely ask for a pay rise?

When thinking about how to ask for a salary increase, it’s important to approach the conversation with politeness and professionalism. Clearly communicate your request, highlighting your contributions and the value you bring to the company. Use respectful language, focusing on your achievements and growth rather than making demands. Be open to feedback and willing to negotiate, maintaining a positive and collaborative tone throughout the conversation.

How do you professionally inquire about a pay raise?

To professionally inquire about a pay raise, schedule a meeting with your supervisor or manager to discuss your request. Clearly and confidently express your desire for a salary increase, providing concrete reasons based on your performance, accomplishments, and additional responsibilities you have taken on. Approach the conversation with professionalism, respect, and a mindset focused on mutual benefit.

What is the best wording to ask for a raise?

When asking for a raise, it’s important to use clear and concise language to effectively convey your request. Consider using phrases like, “I have greatly contributed to the company’s success by…”, “Based on my accomplishments and additional responsibilities, I believe a raise is warranted,” or “I would like to discuss the possibility of a salary adjustment in light of my continued growth and value to the organisation.”

What is a reasonable pay rise?

This depends on your job role, industry, experience, and skillset. With inflation hitting records in recent times, you should factor this into your calculations when working out what a reasonable pay rise would be. For 2024 the average pay rise is expected to be around 4%, with many companies looking to tighten the belt. Do some research to find out your industry’s average, and when asking for a payrise, make clear your unique value to your organisation.

What is the best time to ask for a pay rise?

The best time to ask for a pay rise is when your company is doing well financially, such as after a successful project or during performance review periods. Additionally, consider your own achievements and milestones. If you’ve recently accomplished a major goal or received positive feedback, it may be an opportune moment to ask for a salary increase. Timing is crucial, so choose a time when both you and the company are in a positive and receptive state.

How should I prepare before asking for a pay rise?

Before asking for a pay rise, it’s essential to prepare thoroughly. Research salary ranges for similar positions in your industry to understand what is reasonable. Reflect on your contributions, skills, and performance within your role. Document specific examples of achievements, projects, and added value to support your case. Anticipate potential questions or objections your employer may have and practice articulating your reasons for the pay rise. Being well-prepared will boost your confidence and enhance your chances of success.

How do I overcome my fear or hesitation when asking for a pay rise?

Overcoming fear or hesitation when asking for a pay rise can be challenging, but it’s important to remember your worth and the value you bring to the organisation. Practise your pitch and anticipate potential objections. Seek support and advice from trusted mentors or colleagues. Remind yourself that asking for what you deserve is a normal part of career growth, and your request can lead to positive outcomes such as increased job satisfaction and financial stability. Maintain a positive mindset and believe in your abilities and contributions.

What not to say when asking for a pay rise?

When asking for a pay rise, it’s important to avoid certain phrases or statements that may undermine your request. Avoid making it solely about personal needs or financial struggles. Steer clear of comparing yourself to colleagues or discussing others’ salaries. Additionally, refrain from making demands or ultimatums, as this may strain your relationship with your employer. Instead, focus on your achievements, value, and growth potential, and maintain a respectful and professional tone throughout the conversation.

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