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How to have discussions around your salary or day rate

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​Over the last 18 months, the cost-of-living crisis has meant that for many, the world has become more expensive, and our recently published Salary Census 2024 highlights that over half of the workforce feel that they are currently undervalued and underpaid.

Being able to negotiate a pay rise is a key career skill that will help throughout your working life, and while asking for recognition at work and more pay can feel daunting, it shouldn’t be shied away from.

So, what do you need to consider when having discussions with your employer around salary or day rates? In this article we discuss how you should ask for a pay promotion, as well as what you should avoid doing.


Timing is Important

Timing is crucial when asking for a pay discussion as it can significantly impact the outcome. It’s important to be mindful of the state of the business, and when budget cycles, performance reviews and appraisals are held. Additionally, being aware of market trends will also help support your argument.

You also may want to consider how busy your manager is, and when the right time to raise a conversation around pay might be. Often this is when you have an appraisal, but this shouldn’t put you off if you haven’t got one booked in.

When it feels appropriate, you’ll want to start off by emailing your manager to let them know that you’d like to discuss pay, ensuring that they don’t feel completely blindsided. If your request is rejected, then you should ask them when a suitable time to discuss it would be.


How to prepare for a pay discussion

Once you have managed to secure that meeting, you’ll next want to start getting yourself prepped as knowledge is power:

o   Know your value – it’s important to understand how your salary or day rate compares to those of the industry and your peers. We recommend that you download a version of our 2024 Salary Census – the industries most comprehensive salary survey or take a look at our online benchmarking tool.

In addition, try and speak to your colleagues and those at a similar level to you to try and ascertain if you’re on a similar pay grade or banding. If you’re at a lower level but a high performer, the onus is on your employer to explain why. If you’re a freelancer or contractor, compare your day rates across clients.

o   Create a “loud list” – keep a record of all your successes so that you can clearly demonstrate your value to the business and highlight future projects that you’re working on. It’s also recommended that prior to the meeting you also have information around your KPI’s, OKR’s or any measurement metrics so that you can clearly show your performance levels.

o   Practicemake sure that you practice what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. By saying it practicing you’ll become more confident in your delivery and this will hold you in good stead and ensure that you present your thoughts in a better way.

How to handle a pay rise discussion

Prior to the discussion, we’d advise that you send across a list of your key achievements and outlining the salary or day rate increase you’re looking for. This ensures that your manager has the time to digest and provide appropriate feedback where necessary.

When talking about money, make sure you remain calm and collected, making eye contact and using pauses and silences. Be upfront with what you're looking for and resist the urge to keep talking or arguing your point; you will only work against yourself. Instead, let the silence linger and don’t break it. It's likely, your boss will take your silence as unhappiness with the offer and will either raise the amount suggested or will ask what number you think is appropriate. 

You should always prepare a best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) in your mind if your request is rejected. If the company are not able to increase your wage, what else are they willing to move on – bonuses, holiday, benefits, perks, training?

You should also book in your next appraisal or catch-up during the meeting to ensure that you keep the conversation live. Finally, make sure you get anything promised in writing so that your employer cannot renege on anything.


What to avoid in pay discussions

It’s important to try and avoid getting emotional while asking for a pay rise – it’s an emotive topic and can stir up all kinds of emotions. Try your best to detach those feelings because you’ll be much more likely to be successful if you can be calm, clear, and logical about the process.

You should also think twice about giving an ultimatum if things don’t go your way – instead dig deeper, find out why, and secure timescales of when you can expect to have further discussions.


How to deal with being turned down for a pay rise

If they say no, you might want to ask them to explain their reasoning, and what would be expected of you to work towards a pay rise. Keep the conversation alive though – and ask for another meeting to discuss pay further down the line, you don’t want to have wait another full calendar year, or left thinking when you can broach the subject again.

In fact, you might want to check in with your boss once a month to ask about progression or to highlight the fact you’ve met an agreed-upon objective.

If you’re getting no sense of a raise in the near future, it could be time to consider your options and seek new opportunities.


Here are some frequently asked questions our talent partners often receive:

If I am offered a lower salary, should I negotiate?

The most important thing is to find out why they are offering you a lower wage. Understanding the context will allow you to negotiate accordingly – it’s about getting a salary which makes you feel valued and reflects your skills and experiences. If you’re not content with what they’ve offered you, then have that discussion.

Should I disclose my current salary in job applications?

No – one of the main factors that perpetuates a lack of equality in salaries is that those that are underpaid are judged on their current salary as opposed to what they should be earning. Your current salary is irrelevant and therefore shouldn’t be disclosed. Your new employer should be judging you based on your skills, experience and worth in your new role – and feel confident in communicating this.

One of our commitments is our ‘Earn Your Worth’ initiative – we believe talent should be paid fairly based on skills, experience and ability to do the job; not on perceived worth or ability to negotiate better than the person before. We do not ask our candidates to divulge in their salary history in a bid to cut pay gaps and enable people to earn their worth.

What else should I consider before accepting a Salary?

Lots of people focus on salary, but the package can be just as important. There are many other factors such as holiday allowance, pension, and benefits; plus, there are also cultural aspects that you should consider. If you’re not being fully met on your salary, then maybe there are other benefits you can negotiate on.


For any additional support around salaries then please do reach out to us: