Fixer: How can I persuade bosses to award more generous pay rises?

Our staff have been through a lot and they expect recognition for their efforts

Around half of the staff at the law firm I work for have been furloughed, and the rest are coping admirably with increased workloads. The firm recently awarded everyone meagre pay rises, which understandably went down like a lead balloon. But I have sight of the company finances, and I know they could’ve afforded to be far more generous. Is there a way I can convince my bosses they should take a more magnanimous approach to reward? Many employees will feel they have put up with a lot of inconvenience over the last year, so they will be expecting some form of recognition for their efforts.

It is difficult when you have some staff who have been furloughed while others have been working their socks off. This is bound to create some division between the groups, but it’s important to treat them equally, because some may have been furloughed for childcare or health reasons and giving different rates to each group could be challenged as discriminatory. Therefore, giving an award to everyone is the only sensible way to tackle this.

However, your concern is the employees are not feeling valued by the size of the pay award. It is not going to be well received if you say to them they’ve saved on commuting costs by working from home or that they’re better off than others who have lost their jobs or had pay cuts. You say you believe the firm has the funds to give a higher award, but the partners may feel they need to keep cash reserves for the business to survive 2021.

Try talking to your line manager about your concerns to find out why they decided they couldn’t afford more. If they cannot be persuaded to increase the award, perhaps suggest looking at other forms of recognition that may be of value to staff, but don’t cost the business as much. For example, a one-off bonus or additional payment to employees’ pensions, an extra day’s leave, or increasing cash health plan or life assurance cover in recognition of their efforts in 2020.