The BBC yesterday reported that ‘after nearly six years of falling real wages, rises in weekly earnings have finally caught up with inflation’. Weekly wages, including bonuses, rose by 1.7% in the year to February, up from 1.4% in January, according to the latest Labour Market Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is the first time that earnings have matched inflation for six years, apart from two months in 2010.

Giving your pound of flesh

With the bonus season in full flow for many banks and an increase of confidence in the job market, we have had a number of candidates and clients asking about benchmarking of salaries and bonuses. Coming out of one of the worst recessions that the UK has had in living history has meant that it is very hard to give consistent advice, not only on base salaries but also total package. Whilst traditionally the higher paying sectors such as Financial Services have maintained strong packages overall, they have also wanted more experience and more man hours.

Legislation

In the US this week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. This was an action Obama took on to mark Equal Pay Day and was designed to “encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws.” With the pay gaps between male and female workers still prevalent in the twenty first century trying to remove the taboo about talking about salary can only be a step in the right direction.

Negotiation

In the UK market, organisations are investing again in L&D and Recruitment in effort to retain and attract the very best talent. So whilst we begin to see more and more people moving roles, this isn’t the only way to get a salary increase.

The first question I always ask people is “have you asked for a pay rise?” You would be surprised at how often the answer is “no, if they value me they should give me a pay rise”. And yes, in a perfect world they should, but in a commercial environment when costs are constantly under scrutiny, offering up pay rises just isn’t on the agenda. So how do you ask? You need to go in prepared. And not having just perused the online job boards quickly to see similar roles available paying more. You need to put some serious thought into the value you add and can demonstrate how you contribute to the bottom line.

In a support function such as HR, demonstrating monetary contribution can be tricky but there are other ways to validate experience and value. A HR Director that I am working with has recently negotiated a salary increase as a result of experience and knowledge gained from having a Non-Exec Board role with a charity. And whilst this is not directly related to their work, it has given them extra commercial credentials that his employer value and can see will impact on his ability to carry out the current role.

So if you are happy in your current role but feel it’s time for a pay rise, and you can convincingly justify it, take the time to ask as it might just pay off.

Zoe is a Consultant based in London and has just asked for a pay rise.

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