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How to ask for a pay rise: gender pay gap means women 'work for free' until end of year

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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British women will effectively work for free from today (9 November) until the end of the year due to the country's gender pay gap, says the Fawcett Society.

Every year, the equality campaigners use statistics on hourly pay for full-time workers to calculate the date in which men's salaries surpass women's.

They hope it will reflect the little progress that has been made in closing the gap, where men currently make 14.2% more money than women at work.

Another study examined in the Harvard Business Review this week found that women are four times less likely to ask for a pay raise and ask for 30% less than men do. 

It's easy to assume the system will naturally reward you for your hard work with an increase in wage or that it is too socially awkward to ask for it yourself. But as Petra Wilton, a director at the Chartered Management Institute (a company that's offered training and advice on management for over 60 years) told us at Stylist Live, that's not at all the case. 

We are within our rights to seek a pay rise. Here Wilton offers her invaluable tips on just how to ask your manager for more money at work. 

The ten essential steps to asking for a pay rise

1. Don't wait for your manager to give it to you

It's easy to believe that when we've done good work or taken on more responsibilities over the course of a year, we will naturally be rewarded for it. But that's not always the case. Wilton says, if we feel we’re not getting paid a fair rate for our work we are within our rights to ask for an increase in our salary.

2. Don't label it as a 'difficult' conversation

Stressful, problematic, awkward, inappropriate, risky, complicated - these are all the things asking your manager for a pay rise aren't. Wilton says that you are perfectly within your rights to discuss your pay with a manager. By anticipating a difficult conversation, we allow unhelpful feelings of anxiety and nervousness to build up. She suggests looking at it as a business case, so that you can approach it as rationally as possible. 

3. Find out what you're worth

It’s important to research your market rate to ensure you’re targeting the right salary. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask your colleagues what they’re earning and reach out to those more senior to you to find out what their pay band was when they were in your role.

Use the internet to find advertisements for similar roles to yours and if they don’t mention salaries search for industry tables and data.

Once you have a vague idea of pay, don’t stop yourself from aiming high. Wilton says it’s always worth valuing yourself at a higher rate because it can always (and most likely will) be negotiated down.

4. Make your case as easy as possible for your manager

As you would in a business pitch, create a clear rationale for why you qualify for a pay rise. This should include all the ways you're adding value to your team and company and your individual successes.

5. Practice

In the same way you would practice for a presentation or a job interview, do a role play of how you’ll convince your manager that you are the best person for a pay rise. Think of all the scenarios and questions you may be asked so that you’re prepared when the time comes.

6. Timing is everything

Carefully think about when you will approach your manager about your pay rise and book in a time to meet. Don't initiate or hold the conversation on a Monday morning or the last thing on a Friday afternoon when your manager is likely to be distracted or feeling stressed.

It's also worth thinking about your company's financial year. Ask your HR department or line manager when your company will most likely look at salaries and consider pay rises. Be sensitive to any tough financial months, particularly if you work for a small company.

7. Ask open questions

Once you’ve delivered your business pitch, tell them exactly how much you would like to earn and then wait. Leave it up to your manager to reply with an answer, says Wilton. There may be an awkward moment of silence, but don’t feel you have to fill it.

8. Confirm your commitment to the organisation

During the conversation, be positive and express your passion for the company and your role to show that you are committed to them. It’s easy to lose sight if you’re feeling underappreciated but it’s important you stay as professional as possible.  

9. If the answer is...


Ask your manager, “Is there any way you can meet me half way or reconsider in a few months?” If a pay rise is really not negotiable, consider asking for none-financial rewards such as courses and training that can be of value to you.

"You haven't been in your role long enough."

Wilton says pay rises should not be dependent on length of time served. If you do the same work and achieve the same results as an employee who has been with the company much longer than you have, you are entitled to the same pay bracket. Age discrimination works both ways.

“What if I offered you [insert lower salary]”

If your manager offers you a pay rise you feel does not match your work, then say “I feel £[insert salary] is a better reflection of my work”. Never settle or feel embarrassed that you had a higher salary in mind. Be candid and honest about your expectations and then pause and wait for your manager's reply. Alternatively, ask your manager to explain the reasons behind their calculations.

“Can you take on more responsibilities?”

 If your manager asks if you’d like to take on more work, you can say, “I’m more than happy to do more. Is there any way that can be reflected in my pay?”

10. Do follow up

Chances are, your manager will have to go away, discuss a pay rise with other senior managers and HR before they can give you a definitive answer. However, it’s easy for them to prioritise their day-to-day work over this. Do give them a gentle reminder and ask when you can expect an answer by.

What is the optimum salary for happiness?

In 2010, economist Angus Deaton - who won a Nobel Peace Prize last week for his work on health and wellbeing in economic development - and psychologist Daniel Kahneman calculated the exact pay packet that equates to happiness. 

After analysing over 450,000 responses from a daily survey of 1,000 American residents they found that there's a “happiness plateau” above an annual salary of $75,000 (approximately £49,000). 

But that only related to happiness described as “everyday contentment”. When looking at “life assessment”, which is “the thoughts that people have about their life when they think about it,” it continues to grow with salary. 

At the time of the survey, the authors concluded: “Giving people more income beyond $75,000 is not going to do much for their daily mood...but it is going to make them feel they have a better life.” 

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.