11 October 2022

How to ask for a pay rise

5 minute read


Ciphr editorial

Ciphr editorial

Ciphr editorial posts articles that have been written or contributed to by Ciphr's in-house team of writers, who are experts in a range of HR and L&D topics, from recruitment and onboarding to performance management, payroll, and employee experience, as well as HR software and HR systems.


Career development Pay benefits and reward


Want to ask for a pay rise? Ciphr’s experts reveal if you should ask for a rise, how to prepare for the conversation, and how to negotiate a pay rise


Research by Ciphr reveals that nearly half (44%) of workers think they’re being paid less than they should be, considering their job role and experience. Yet many haven’t received, or even requested, a salary increase in over a year. Could it be as simple as: if you don’t ask, you don’t get?

Ciphr’s HR consultants share their top tips for asking for, and (hopefully) getting, your next pay rise.


Should I ask for a pay rise?

“I am a strong believer that employers should put processes in place to ensure they are paying their employees competitively and to help reduce the chance of employees asking for a pay rise,” says Laurie Mahmood, head of implementation services at HR software provider Ciphr. “Salary benchmarking, yearly salary reviews, clear development plans, and visibility of total compensation are all useful ways of supporting this. Every organisation, however, will have cases where employees may feel that they deserve a pay rise.”

“There is a stigma around pay rises, and many employees think that asking for a pay rise will always result in a negative outcome,” says Courtney Thompson-Ayerst Assoc CIPD, HR consultant and implementation services manager at Ciphr.

“If, as an employee you believe that you should earn ‘what you are worth’ and want a pay rise that reflects this, then evidence is critical. Make sure you have a strong argument to back up the reasons why you deserve this pay rise.”


Do your research and preparation before asking for a pay rise

“Preparing for the conversation will definitely help increase the likelihood of a successful outcome, so ensure you have objective evidence to support your case,” says Shirley Bousfield, HR consultant at Ciphr. “Research the market online to benchmark pay for your job role, sector and location. This will help identify your pay range and if your pay is below average. If your job role has changed recently, prepare a list of additional responsibilities. And if you have an official job description, ask if this can be reviewed to add in any updates.”

Don’t forget to gather a list of everything you’ve accomplished since you last had a pay rise. “When preparing a list of achievements always be specific, with performance data where possible,” says Bousfield. “You should include details about your contributions to projects and how this has benefited the company, and provide examples of positive recognition received from your customers or accolades from colleagues.”

Ultimately, you need to build a strong case for your pay rise request, says Mahmood. “Looking at the market rate, and compare your salary to those of others doing a similar job, internally and externally, by looking at Glassdoor, LinkedIn and browsing job boards.”


What is a reasonable pay rise?

“If your company has an open pay grading structure and/or job evaluation process in place, discuss with your manager whether it is appropriate to re-evaluate your role,” says Bousfield. “Reviewing the available pay data will help you determine how realistic your request is.

“It’s also important to consider the overall climate in the business and how it’s performing as a whole,” she adds. “If your company has been struggling and there have been redundancies and/or other cutbacks, then your chance of agreeing a pay rise is likely to be reduced.”


How often should you get a pay rise in the UK?

Bear in mind that your employer may only implement pay rises at certain times of the year. “Be aware of your employer’s salary review process and if there are any specific processes you need to follow to request a review of your pay,” says Gwenan West head of people operations at Ciphr. “This will vary from company to company and will be highly regulated in some industries.”

Adds Bousfield: “If your company has an annual performance review process, then this can be the ideal time to discuss this, or at the point of budget planning to ensure increases are catered for. However, if your role has changed and you have taken on additional responsibilities or a new project, then it could be more appropriate to discuss this at the time (rather than retrospectively). Give your manager a heads up about what you want to discuss and ensure you have adequate time and will not be interrupted, which will help optimise the setting for your proposal being fully considered.”

You should also plan when in the week, or day, to make a request. “Don’t forget to plan the timing of your request,” says West. “Ensure you have your line manager’s full attention, so request a meeting in advance if required. Set out your request in a calm professional manner and try to avoid emotive language.”

Mahmood agrees that timing is crucial. “This may mean waiting until you have completed the project you are involved in, or when you are asked to take on more responsibility. It’s important not to ask at the wrong time, such as, for example, just after your employer has announced a recruitment freeze or poor financial results, as it’s unlikely the organisation will be increasing anyone’s pay.”


How to ask for a pay rise by email

“My advice to anyone who is considering approaching their manager is [to] do it face-to-face – a in person or via video call,” says Mahmood. “It shows that you are serious and allows you to challenge your request and answer questions your manager may have. It also gives you the opportunity to assess their reaction, an opportunity that sending an email doesn’t allow. Although, I would advise preparing for your meeting by writing down your case, which can help you organise your thoughts and can be emailed after the meeting.”


How to negotiate a pay rise

“Be professional and strategic in your request,” says West. “Plan out what you want to say in advance and have some notes at hand to refer to. Your request should set out the reason for the request and show that you have done your research. Provide any data you have gathered in an easy-to-read format for your line manager to take away.”

“Book in a formal meeting with your manager, which enables you to highlight, with meaningful conversation, all the reasons why you believe your worth warrants a pay rise,” says Thompson-Ayerst. “Canteen conversations and comparisons with other colleagues is not enough evidence to support your request. Having an open discussion is always the best way to approach a pay rise. Many employees look outside of their organisation as a form of negotiation, which can sometimes end in the wrong outcome. When, in fact, all that was needed was a simple conversation with their employer. It can make all the difference between feeling valued in the job you’ve got and (hopefully) earning what you want to earn – or, the alternative, feeling resentful and undervalued at work.”

Keep any pay rise conversations as positive as possible, says Mahmood. “Listing all your accomplishments, successes, and evidence of where you are going above and beyond, will certainly help support your case. Regardless of how the conversation goes, keep it professional and thank your manager for their time.

But, he says, “if you feel, after following that process, you are not making any progress with your employer, it may be time to look for a new role.”


This article was first published in October 2021. It was updated in October 2022 for freshness, clarity, and accuracy.