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Negotiating a pay rise is a key career skill that will help you throughout your working life. Here are our top tips for helping you negotiate correctly to get a salary increase that you deserve.

When asking for a pay rise timing is everything

If you're successful at work, you have probably already mastered timing – approaching the person you need to speak to only when they are most likely to give you the answer you want. Asking for a pay rise is no different.

Consider a pay rise from your employer's perspective

If business is going through a tough time, figures are down, or senior management has a lot on its plate, it's probably best to hold off on making your request until things are more relaxed and positive. You don't want to be seen as an additional burden or annoyance on an already inexhaustible list. Also, try to work your request into existing rounds of performance or pay reviews within your organisation, as these are when pay rises for certain staff are being considered.

Do the groundwork

In the run-up to making your request, make sure you've done everything asked of you: completed all tasks, met all targets, and are well on the way to meeting or exceeding your current objectives. If you've missed anything, or failed to deliver something significant in the months prior to your request, you may be on the back foot before you begin.

Schedule a meeting

To show you're serious about your request, book a meeting with the relevant people in advance. This will also give them time to prepare and be ready for you, rather than catching them off guard at a potentially bad time.

Why ask for a pay rise? Your business case

Along with evidence of your recent successes, it's also important to consider the future – how will you continue to deliver, improve and grow, should you be given your desired new salary?

Prepare for additional responsibility

Pay rises are rarely awarded for a job well done – that's what bonuses are for. Instead, salary increases represent progression and investment in future potential, so consider what additional responsibilities and improvements you can implement to deserve that longer-term salary increase.

If you've been succeeding at or even outgrowing your current role, you're probably already looking for new challenges, so balance your request for a pay increase with a commitment to extra duties you're prepared to fulfil.

Know your value

With everything that your organisation buys or pays for, the supplier of that good or service expects a fair price, so why should you be any different? When it comes to negotiating your pay research job vacancies similar to your own and compare their salaries to yours.

If yours is significantly lower, save copies of these vacancies for reference, and use them to benchmark your desired salary. If you can prove you are able to do your current job at a different organisation for a higher salary, then your employer should be willing to at least listen to you.

Stick to business

Just because you may need some more money on a personal level, it doesn't mean your employer is going to give it to you (nor does it mean they should), and they won't take your personal financial situation into account with regards to your pay. Your meeting and business case should purely be about the value of your contribution to the organisation you work for.

Negotiation (How to ask for a pay rise)

Know what your ideal salary is before your meeting, but also know what you're prepared to accept, and how to do so gracefully.

Consider the full package

There are many ways in which organisations can reward staff, above and beyond salary. These can be bonus schemes, flexible working hours, job title changes, insurance and pension plans, corporate discounts, training opportunities and many more. All of these have a value, so consider options that you would be prepared to accept as a trade-off, if your employer is willing to offer them.

Take your time

It sounds easy, but in your meeting you may be presented with a lower offer than you were hoping for, and feel obliged to accept it. Don't be afraid to take time to think about it, and present alternatives if you think there may be some room for manoeuvre. If you've done all that research and ground work, don't throw it away by making a snap decision.

Accept the outcome

You may not get your way this time, so prepare yourself for a "no" just in case. If you are unsuccessful in your request, be professional and thank your employers for their time and consideration. Ask if there may be a suitable time to put your case forward again.

However, if you do get your desired pay rise, make sure you reflect on the process and weigh up if it was a fair business decision, you don't want your employer feeling like they have been forced to pay you more than you're worth. Successful negotiation is always about achieving the best outcome for both parties, so you should both be able to leave the meeting feeling like you've got a good deal.

Reed’s UK salary guides 2023