It's been a tough few years for businesses and employees alike, and with the cost of living rising and pay freezes denting pockets up and down the country, many will be hoping for a salary increase this year.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, wages did go up, with the average gross annual earnings for full-time employees rising by 1.4 per cent. But since inflation was 2.3% back in April, that increase will have done little to boost pay packets.
The report also highlighted the best and worst paid jobs in the UK - Managers and Senior Officials in full-time work were doing best in April 2012, with average gross weekly earnings of £738, but that's a massive 46 per cent higher than the average across the board. At the other end of the scale, sales and customer service employees were faring badly with £323, some 36 per cent lower than average.
Given this slightly gloomy news, it could be time to bite the bullet and ask for a pay rise. If you are unsure how to broach the subject and give yourself the best chance of success, jobs website Monster has this advice....
Know your worth
Asking for a pay rise is similar to your initial salary negotiations when offered a new role; however, once you're in the job and have been doing it successfully for a while, you're going to be in a fundamentally stronger position. Most companies will work hard to keep good employees, as the cost in time, recruitment fees and the handover process make losing a valued employee bad news.
Choose the right time
You can ask for a pay rise at any time, but choose wisely as this can have an impact on the success of your request. A performance review is often a good opportunity, as is the end of the calendar or financial year. Sometimes natural opportunities can arise during times when the company takes stock of what they have achieved against their forecasts, especially if you have contributed to a successful period for their business.
As a general rule, it can appear greedy if you ask for a pay rise more than once a year, unless your responsibilities have changed dramatically. This only goes to reinforce how important it is to make the most of these infrequent opportunities when they do arise.
Preparation is the key
Make sure you know your personal market value and prepare thoroughly; you're more likely to get what you want if you present a strong case. Weight your argument with every possible proof point, be that recent achievements or additional training, qualifications or skills you have gained, linking these back to the company vision and requirements of your job role.
Soft skills are also important - attitude, teamwork, accountability and personal popularity are all valuable bargaining points. Whilst most bosses will recognise your work skills, they may not be aware of your wider reputation or profile within the company. Spend some time anticipating the sort of objections or excuses your boss might come back at you with, and have a reasoned response ready.
You will need at least half an hour of your manager's undivided attention, so think ahead and book some time in their diary. Mornings are usually more stressful, so aim to arrange the meeting during the afternoon. If your role is judged on monthly targets, try to set time aside at the beginning of the month when everyone is a little calmer. Also avoid saying directly that the meeting is about your pay as they may try and put it off, instead keep it vague and say you would like to have a chat about a few things.
Don't fidget, sit confidently and maintain eye contact. Start the meeting on a positive, and mention a recent project you have completed successfully. Be clear and concise as you present your case - the more convincingly you present your value, the better your chances of achieving the pay rise you're looking for.
Whilst you must be careful not to go too high and risk being seen as arrogant, you should always aim higher than you expect to get. Support your request by explaining you're willing to take on more responsibility in return for extra money. You should expect some resistance, and be prepared to fight your corner.
If they cannot provide you with the salary you asked for, don't be afraid to ask for additional benefits instead, this could be in the form of a company car, boost to your pension scheme, or a greater share of the bonus pot.