Wanting a pay rise is natural when you work hard at your job and exceed expectations. As well as boosting your income, a salary increase can signify your value to your company, growing your confidence.
However, asking for a pay rise takes careful planning and can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if you’ve never done it before. In fact — a recent study by YouGov revealed out of all British adults who have worked, only 46% of men and 33% of women have asked for a pay rise. And only 31% of men and 21% of women have asked and been successful.
That’s why we’ve spoken to four industry experts with real-life experience in asking for, accepting, and rejecting salary requests. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to ask for a pay rise with an example and what to consider before doing so, as well as answering frequently asked questions.
When is the right time to ask for a pay rise?
Before you speak to your manager about a salary increase, it’s important to think about why you deserve to be paid more.
You may be due a pay rise if:
Your roles or responsibilities have changed — If you have taken on more work while at your company that isn’t reflected in your salary, you may be in a good position to ask for a raise. Try to wait at least six months before requesting a raise to give yourself time to demonstrate your skills.
You’ve been in your role for over 12 months — Companies will usually discuss salary with employees after one year in the role.
You’ve gained a qualification — If you have recently completed training or achieved a qualification such as a degree, you may be able to ask for a salary increase. Your accomplishment can be used to show your dedication to your role.
Your salary doesn’t reflect the industry average — If your salary doesn’t match the industry benchmark, your pay may not be equal to your value. Asking for a raise will show your manager that you know your worth.
7 steps for how to ask for a pay rise
Research the average salary for your role
Taking the time to do your research into the average salary will give you an idea of the region you should be aiming for.
Will Craig, former Managing Director at Digital Impact, gives his advice on going in with a well-rounded figure: “In my opinion, there’s one thing employees always overlook in salary negotiations: knowing your market value. If you want to convince your employer to raise your salary, it makes sense to know how much your competitors are willing to pay you. After all, if you don’t know what you’re worth, how can you know what to ask for?
Before negotiating a raise, I recommend you speak to your co-workers and your peers in the industry to get an idea of how much they’re paid.
Complement that research with salary info from job advertisements posted online. That will give you a solid figure for what the market will pay for someone of your capability and experience. If you’re currently being paid less than that figure, that’s a great bargaining tool!”
Using an online salary calculator is a great way to find the average pay for job roles similar to your own and help you decide on a fair salary. But remember — highly experienced and educated employees will earn the upper end of the pay spectrum, whereas beginners will be towards the lower. Your location and the cost of living will also determine how much you will earn.
Our top tip: ask for slightly more than you expect, as most managers will try to negotiate your figure.
Plan your timing
Learning how to negotiate a salary can be tough, but first, consider your timing. Don’t just stroll into the office one morning and book a meeting with your manager — there is a time and a place for everything. You need to consider the circumstances around the meeting as this can have a big impact on the result of your request.
The following factors may influence your manager’s receptiveness:
The time of year — Your workplace may have specific times when they undertake employee reviews.
Brian Johnson, Managing Director at Forward Role, says this type of conversation has to be timed perfectly: “Timing is an important factor when negotiating your salary, so think about where your pay rise sits within the bigger business plan. When does your organisation review annual budgets? Is there a popular time for management to conduct performance appraisals? Ultimately you need to ask the question as soon as possible but these are key things to be mindful of.”
Your business's success — Your company’s financial health may indicate whether they are ready or capable of investing more in their employees. Take note of new starters and clients, as this may signify the expansion of the business.
Build a business case
Now you’ve done your research and you have a clearer idea of your value, it’s time to plan for your meeting.
Get ready to give voice to your many accomplishments, but be sure you tie these back to your job and the company to make them tangible. If you’re there to negotiate a pay rise, you need to be sure you can demonstrate why it’s deserved. Don’t be afraid to shout about the things you’ve achieved, as this is your chance to showcase your skills and validate what you’re worth.
Peter Brown, a Former Reward Management Consultant at Pay Data, gives his advice on creating a convincing case: “Most bosses are respectful of reasonable pay rise requests, so the best thing to do is just ask for it. However, you must build a case for why you deserve a raise. Otherwise, you’re just asking for more money without a reason as to why your manager should even begin to review your current salary, let alone increase it. A manager will want to see any pay rise as justifiable, so it is important to consider the why.”
Peter recommends ensuring that you can answer the following questions when asking for a pay rise, as these will help you to make your case about why exactly you deserve a raise:
What have you contributed to the company since you started?
Have you taken on any additional responsibilities?
Have you completed a training course, managed a new team or started a new project?
Have you hit and/or exceeded your targets?
Preparing to answer these questions will help you to justify why you deserve a pay rise. You could also discuss other factors like a demand for your experience or qualifications if you haven’t had a salary increase in a few years or if there is a skills shortage in your industry.
David Ingram, Founder of Bring Digital, says he wants to see people come to him with real and tangible proof of their efforts: “It’s always easy to give a pay rise when an employee can tie their achievements back to real commercial value for the company. For example, ‘I created a social media strategy that has driven £125,000 of new sales,’ or ‘I reduced the need to outsource our human resources services, which has saved us £36,000 a year.
If an employee can come to a pay review with a list of their achievements against expectations you set at a previous review, then it makes it much easier to sign off. For example, ‘you wanted me to improve my leadership skills, and I’ve taken a course, read the three suggested books and taken responsibility for the development of a junior staff member’.
Both of these points come down to preparation; taking the time to think about how your value to the company has increased since your last review and bringing along the information that can evidence this.”
Make sure you make a note of your answers, that way, you become familiar with them and can be more confident going into your meeting.
Schedule a meeting
The next step is asking for a meeting with your manager. Aim to schedule at least a 30-minute meeting, as this will give you enough time to discuss your request in-depth without feeling rushed.
You might say something along the lines of: “I’d like to meet with you to discuss my performance. If possible, could we schedule a 30-minute meeting next Wednesday at 1:30 pm? Please let me know if this date and time works for you.”
Or, if you already have an upcoming one-to-one with your manager, this may be a good chance to bring it up, but only if you have enough time.
Practice what you have to say
In a similar way to when you’re preparing for a job interview, going over and practising what you have to say will help you feel more confident before your meeting. If you’re nervous or haven’t done anything like this before, try formatting what you want to say into the following three stages:
The introduction — Quickly go over your reason for wanting the meeting.
The body — Discuss your ideal salary, why you believe you deserve the salary increase, and how you have arrived at the figure. Focus on your achievements, additional responsibilities, experience, and how you have contributed to the company.
The conclusion — Take the opportunity to summarise your main points and your strengths. Then, invite your manager to comment or give their thoughts.
Here’s an example of how to ask for a pay rise to base your own script on:
"Good morning/afternoon [Manager's Name]. I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. I've been with [company name] for [X] years now, and I've recently been thinking about how I see myself growing without our team. For that reason, I would like to talk about the possibility of a pay rise.
After researching the market rates for similar positions and responsibilities, a salary increase of [desired amount in %] seems reasonable. I've arrived at this figure by considering my experience, the current industry standards, and the value I bring to the company. I believe this increase aligns with the level of my performance and the responsibilities I've assumed.
Since I began working here, I've consistently demonstrated a proactive approach to self-improvement. For instance, I undertook an independent study to learn about artificial intelligence and how we could apply it in our business. Over the course of two years, I not only deepened my understanding of AI but also shared my insights and findings with the company.
Recognising the potential benefits of AI for our team, I also led a training course to help my colleagues enhance their skills and knowledge in this area. And as a result, our company now leverages AI technology, significantly enhancing our workflow and operational efficiency.
I also recently led a successful search engine optimisation strategy that improved our website's organic search traffic by 50% in just six months, exceeding the 30% target.
I believe I have consistently exceeded expectations and contributed to the growth and success of the company. I have implemented new strategies, taken on additional responsibilities, demonstrated my skills and experience, and remained committed to delivering high-quality work. I really value my role here and look forward to continuing to contribute to the company's success.
What are your thoughts on this and can we discuss the possibility of reviewing my salary?”
Ask for a pay rise
Now that you’ve prepared, all that’s left to do is ask.
When you go into the meeting, try to be calm and relaxed; anxiety can throw you off balance. A cool demeanour might make you seem overconfident and cocky, or not wanting to appear boastful may make you play down your experience and skills. It can be tricky to get right!
What you want to avoid most is appearing too nervous, tentative, defensive or angry.
Speak slowly and steadily, and maintain relaxed eye contact with the other person without staring them down. Keep your voice strong yet reasonable, and you will come across as both confident and convincing.
Thank your manager for their time
Whether or not you received a pay rise, always remember to thank your manager for their time. It shows you can handle these conversations professionally and creates a comfortable environment for your boss to revisit the topic in the future.
A follow-up email is an excellent way to do this, as you'll have a documented account of your conversation, making it easier to follow up or refer back to the details of your salary request.
If you managed to get the pay rise, a follow-up email might look something like this:
'Dear [Manager's Name],
I wanted to express my gratitude for you approving the salary increase. I appreciate your recognition of my contributions and the value I bring to the team. This raise will undoubtedly motivate me to continue delivering exceptional results and contribute to the company's success.
Once again, thank you for your support and for valuing my work.
Here's an email example if you didn't get the salary increase you expected:
'Good morning/afternoon [Manager's Name],
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss a pay rise. During our talk, I mentioned my artificial intelligence project and the success of implementing it into the business to improve workflow. I also spoke about my successful search engine optimisation strategy that improved the company website's search traffic by 50% in six months, exceeding the 30% target.
I understand the current budget constraints have influenced the offered salary increase of 5%. While this falls short of the 8% I initially requested, I genuinely appreciate your consideration. I look forward to revisiting this matter in a year, hoping to further discuss a potential pay rise.
Thank you again for your time,
Plan your next career milestone
If you secured a pay rise, take a moment to congratulate yourself: you have been recognised for your hard work and achievements. However, don't slow down the pace now — keep that momentum going to continue to show your boss your value.
And if you haven't managed to bag the salary increase this time, don't be discouraged. Use this as an opportunity to reassess your career goals and plan your next milestone. Reflect on the feedback and suggestions provided by your manager during the discussion and identify areas for growth and improvement.
How to ask for a pay rise in an email
Generally, it’s considered more effective to ask for a pay rise in person, as it allows you to gauge your manager’s reaction and negotiate effectively. Sending an email won’t give you this opportunity.
However, if you work remotely or in a different location than your boss, an in-person meeting may not be possible. In this case, you should try organising a meeting over a virtual platform like Microsoft Teams, which can provide a closer experience to a face-to-face discussion.
But if an email is the only viable option, you can ask for a pay rise like you would in person just by simply typing out a message like in the script example above. But remember to try to keep it concise and make sure what you want to say is really clear and to the point; your boss may not have time to read through a lengthy email.
Could I get fired for asking for a pay rise?
The answer is no. It is against UK law to punish or sack an employee for asking for a raise. If an employee is dismissed, the manager must show they have a valid, justified reason and act reasonably.
If your employer does punish, threaten, or dismiss you in response to asking for a pay rise, you can usually go to an employment tribunal to make a claim. If the case is won, the employer may have to pay compensation or give you your job back if applicable.
How to deal with rejection
Once you’ve figured out how to ask for a pay rise, planned out what you’re going to say and worked up the courage to do it, it can feel frustrating if you receive a rejection.
But the way you handle it will say a lot about your character, and your manager will be looking out for your reaction.
Accept the decision — It’s not the time to argue back. It’s best to simply accept their decision straight away and gain an understanding of the decision later. However difficult it may be, keep your emotions in check and try not to let your facial expressions or body language portray any feelings of anger, disappointment or upset.
Ask for the reasons — Secondly, tell them you understand and ask for the reasons behind their decision. This could range from issues with your performance to average pay rise levels in the UK market, or even financial problems within the company itself.
Show your commitment to improving — Ask for the opportunity to set out your goals and make a plan for what you need to achieve to get a pay rise in the future.
If you feel you are undervalued at your current job and your manager isn’t offering any development opportunities, it may be time to leave.
If you decide to move on from your role, take a look at our guide on the top tips for starting a new job. Or, learn more about how to handle job rejection and use it to your advantage here.
Things to avoid when asking for a pay rise
Demanding a pay rise — Demanding a pay rise may come across as aggressive and anger your boss. Working with your manager to get to the solution that works for both of you will increase your chances of a salary increase.
Taking things personally — Staying calm and not letting your emotions get the better of you will help you to compose your words and deliver a convincing message.
Not doing your research or preparing — If you don’t prepare before talking to your manager, you may not be able to justify why you deserve a pay rise. Doing your research will help you to understand your worth, increasing your confidence in the meeting.
Presenting an ultimatum — Suggesting to your manager that you may leave if you don’t get a pay rise could damage your professional relationship. Regarding the request as a conversation rather than a threat will provide a more successful outcome.
Learn more about Forward Role
Once you understand what to consider, how to prepare yourself and how to execute it confidently, asking for a pay rise isn’t as daunting as it seems.