How to ask for a pay rise during the cost-of-living crisis

·4-min read
The cost-of-living crisis has put pressure on personal finances (Alamy/PA)
The cost-of-living crisis has put pressure on personal finances (Alamy/PA)

As we head into the colder months, financial worries caused by the cost-of-living crisis are showing no signs of letting up.

While the government’s Energy Price Guarantee has reined in household heating bills from the stratospheric levels they were due to reach, food prices are still rising and inflation is set to jump again after a glimmer of hope when it dropped to (a still staggering) 9.9% in the summer.

For many of us, a hefty pay rise would be welcomed with open arms right now, but with companies’ costs and energy bills rising too, is now a terrible time to ask your boss to bump your salary?

We asked experts for their advice on how to talk to your boss about a pay increase in the current financial climate…

Can anyone ask for a pay rise?

(Alamy/PA)
(Alamy/PA)

Employees don’t usually have a contractual right to a pay rise,” says Jo Moseley at Irwin Mitchell (irwinmitchell.com). “They may have a clause in their contract of employment which states that their salary will be reviewed from time to time, often yearly.”

A salary review won’t necessarily result in an increase, but it may help to talk to your manager shortly before the annual review date, otherwise they might tell you there’s nothing that can be done until the following year.

Moseley adds: “Many organisations will make a small percentage increase each year based on what they can afford, rather than to reflect inflation.”

Assess your options

Before deciding whether to seek a pay rise, or how much to ask for, start by doing some background research.

“Try and benchmark your salary against similar jobs to help you understand if you are being paid less than the going rate,” says Moseley. “And have a look around to see what other roles are available and what financial packages competitors are offering.”

While money can be a sensitive topic, if you can find out what colleagues at the same level are paid, you may be able to use this as a bargaining tool.

“Check your contract first to see if it contains a pay secrecy clause which prevents you having these sorts of conversations,” Moseley advises.

“Even if you do have such a clause, if you are trying to find out whether any pay differences are connected to a protected characteristic, such as your sex or age, you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 if you are victimised or dismissed.”

Should you mention the cost-of-living crisis?

(Alamy/PA)
(Alamy/PA)

The next step is to arrange to talk to your manager in a formal meeting, rather than a casual catch up.

“Make it clear that you want to talk about your salary and ask for an appointment to discuss it,” Moseley suggests. “It’s generally better to do this in person rather than remotely, as you’ll be able to gauge your manager’s reaction and respond more easily.”

While it may be tempting to use soaring living costs as a springboard for your request, experts agree that’s not the best approach.

“It’s probably not a good idea to use inflation/cost of living/energy prices, as after all, we are all in the same boat,” says Liz Sebag-Montefiore, career coach and director of 10Eighty (10eighty.co.uk). “Unless you are in a collective bargaining situation, it is better to make a business case for your request for a salary review.”

Moseley says: “Asking for a pay increase to reflect the rising cost of living is not likely to get you anywhere. If you want to succeed, you will need a compelling business case that demonstrates why you should be paid more.”

State your case

(Alamy/PA)
(Alamy/PA)

“If you are asking your boss for more money, then make your case and be prepared to negotiate,” Sebag-Montefiore says. “You have to make the case powerfully and be tough about it. Not too tough – be reasonable, but if you can show you believe you deserve a raise, then be prepared to back that position.”

Moseley recommends: “Start by emphasising how much you enjoy your job and your commitment to the organisation. Then highlight your achievements, using the facts and figures you’ve prepared, and briefly set out how you will contribute to the success of the organisation going forward.”

Present your benchmarking research along with any relevant commendations or praise from clients or colleagues, and remember that you probably won’t get an immediate answer.

“Ask them when they expect to be able to get back to you and follow this up if you haven’t heard anything by that date,” Moseley says. “And if you’re not successful, ask your boss what you can do to achieve a pay award next year.”