Who’s been asking for a pay rise?

Charles Cotton, CIPD senior adviser for reward and performance

A CIPD survey of around 2,000 employees carried out last summer found 23% of them had asked their employer for a pay rise in the past few years. Further analysis found that men had been more likely to ask for a salary bump (25%) than women (20%).

In this blog I look further at the data to see how similar, or different, responses are to this question by gender, and the possible HR and public policy implications.

Among the employees questioned in our survey as to whether they have asked for a pay rise or not, Table 1 looks at the impact of job tenure. It shows that as length of service increases, both men and women are more likely to ask for a pay rise. However, it also reveals that men are more likely than women to have asked for a pay increase in the first 5 years or the first 10 years of service.

Table 1: who's asked for a pay rise, by length of service (%)?

Tenure

Women

Men

Up to a year

12

21

Up to 2 years

13

21

Up to 5 years

17

25

Up to 10 years

19

27

10 years or more

21

22

Base=2,179; men 1,125; women 1,054

One implication of the findings is that not only are men more likely to have asked for a pay rise than women, they are also more likely to have asked for a rise earlier on in their jobs than women. If men get a pay rise early on in their career, they will enjoy the compounding effect that women will miss out on by leaving a request until later.

When it comes to pay levels, Table 2 shows that women who earn up to £20,000 are less likely to have asked for a wage rise than men who earn this amount, suggesting some women are in danger of becoming stuck in low paid work because they do not ask for a pay rise earlier.

However, Table 2 also shows that female top earners are a bit more likely to have asked for a pay rise than their male counterparts.

Table 2: who's asked for a pay rise, by gross earnings (%)?

Annual earnings

Women

Men

Up to £20,000

16

27

£20,000 to £39,999

25

26

£40,000 to £59,999

24

25

£60,000 and above

26

22

Base=1,890; men=983; women 907

Table 3 shows what happened to those who asked for a pay rise. Overall, it reveals little difference by gender, with women just as likely as men to get the pay rise that they asked for or more. The implication is that women are not more likely to discriminated against because of their gender for asking for a pay rise compared with men.

Table 3: what did people get when they asked for a pay rise (%)?

 

Women

Men

No pay increase

25

26

A pay increase, but it was less than asked for

30

29

The pay increase that was asked for

23

22

A pay increase that was more than was asked for

9

10

Still waiting for an answer

7

8

No pay increase, but something else instead (such as a new job title)

1

3

Other

4

1

Base=492; men 279; women 213

We also asked those who didn’t get the increase they had hoped for why they thought that was the case. Table 4 shows that for both women and men the most common explanation was that the person they approached for a salary increase did not have the money to give it to them.

While men were more likely than women to say that they didn’t get the rise they wanted because the person they asked didn’t have the authority to increase it, women were more likely than men to say that they didn’t know why their request had been rejected. This suggests that HR should try and ensure that line managers give workers an explanation if a pay rise isn’t given, such as through advice, training or toolkits.

Table 4: why didn’t people get the pay rise they wanted? (%)

 

Women

Men

The person/s asked didn't have the money to give what was asked for

46

48

The person/s asked didn't have the authority to increase pay by what was asked for

18

25

Other

15

13

Don't know why the pay increase was not given

14

10

The person/s asked didn't explain why they couldn't give pay rise asked for

13

7

The person/s asked for a pay increase didn't view the person’s performance positively

5

7

Base=282; men 163; women 119

Given that at the time of our survey, employment levels were at record highs and earnings had not yet returned to their pre-2008 levels in real terms we were interested why more employees had not asked for a pay rise. To find out why this was the case, we asked the 77% of our respondents who had not asked for a salary hike in the past two years.

The most common responses are reported in Table 5, with little difference in the responses given by men or women. The largest gap is in due to people not being sure about the process of asking for a pay rise, while 5% of men (or one in 20) admit not knowing how to go about asking for a salary increase this proportion jumps to 10% (or one in 10). To close this knowledge gap, HR has a role to play in communicating to employees how pay decisions are made by the organisation and what they need to do if they believe that they should get a wage rise.

Table 5: why people haven’t asked for a pay rise ask? (%)

 

Women

Men

I’ve already been given a pay rise with which I’m happy

25

26

It’s not worth my while asking for a pay rise as I know my line manager/organisation won’t give it

26

23

I already earn enough to enjoy a reasonable standard of living

15

19

I get paid appropriately given my responsibilities and achievements

17

16

Base=1,690; men 163; women 119

In terms of public policy, pay transparency has been given a boost by initiatives like gender pay gap reporting, the FRC’s new UK Corporate Governance Code and the Government’s good work plan, as well as by investors, such as the Workforce Disclosure Initiative. This should encourage firms to see the importance of fair reward and training those who make decisions and communicate to staff about pay.

These survey findings also show the need for people professionals to help their organisation be more transparent with employees about how pay is managed, so they can judge whether they are being paid appropriately for their skills and achievements. It will also encourage employers to ensure pay decisions are fair by reflecting contribution rather than unconscious prejudice and bias. Employers also need to have rigorous checks and balances in place, such as carrying out an equal pay audit regularly, to ensure they are paying all staff equally.

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