More than one in 10 workers ‘too scared’ to ask for a pay rise

Experts say pay transparency vital for engagement, with most employees lacking confidence in salary discussions

The majority of employees in the UK are not confident enough to ask their employer for a pay rise, including more than one in 10 who are simply too scared to speak up, a new survey has found.

Experts said the results emphasised the importance of transparency around how pay and remuneration are set within organisations.

Out of 3,000 UK employees surveyed by Reed Recruitment, 55 per cent said there were impediments preventing them from asking for a raise.

These included not knowing what to say (16 per cent); not wanting to appear greedy (15 per cent); and being worried they would be turned down (12 per cent). Another 12 per cent reported they were “scared of asking the boss” for a pay increase.

Of the respondents, just 37 per cent said nothing would stop them from asking for a pay rise.

Charles Cotton, CIPD senior performance and reward adviser, said it made sense for employers to be transparent about their pay processes, including how salaries and bonuses were set and what needed to happen for an individual to receive a pay rise. 

“That would be in terms of what they need to do as employees either as individuals or as teams, but also what the organisation needs to achieve,” said Cotton.

If employees feel they cannot ask for a pay rise, it could lead to disengagement at work, he added. “So it’s important from organisations’ perspective both to have these conversations so employees understand how pay decisions are made, but also to manage expectations.

“If someone comes asking for an unrealistic pay rise, you give some kind of explanation about how the business makes its money and how it then shares some success.”

Cotton also said employers needed to be conscious of potential biases when reviewing pay, and noted that the evidence suggested that women who asked for a pay rise were less likely to be viewed in a positive light compared to men.

A separate survey last week found men were more confident in asking for a pay rise, and tended to receive a higher pay rise when they did. Out of 1,200 UK workers, two in three men (64 per cent) were comfortable asking for a pay rise, compared to just 43 per cent of women.

James Reed, chairman of Reed Recruitment, said a lack of confidence and self-belief are clear reasons why individuals may not find the courage to ask. “However, if you think you deserve a pay rise why not ask for one?” he said.

Reed added employees should evidence why they think they deserve a pay rise, and time their moment carefully. “The business you work for is unlikely to give you more money if they are going through financial difficulties, so timing is everything.

“If the answer is ‘no’, don’t take it personally – use this as an opportunity to follow up and ask what more you need to do to earn one,” he said.