Pay has fallen again. The latest figures show that after inflation, real wages fell by 0.5% in a year, piling more pressure on families who are having a hard enough time making ends meet. There are only so many times we can revisit the household budget and try desperately to cut costs, so before we cut again, it's worth looking at the other side of the coin: and checking whether a pay rise is out of the question.
See also: Household bills rise twice as fast as salaries over last decade
See also: Are you being paid less because of other people's pensions?
1. Do your research
Before you start, you need to check that you're not already being paid the maximum possible rate for the role. Have a look on sites like Total Jobs and Glassdoor, to check the going rate. It's also worth looking at job adverts for similar roles, to see what's on offer. This should help you get an understanding of what it's reasonable to ask for.
You can't just pop in and ask for more money, you need to show your boss you're worth it. It's not enough just to do your job effectively, you need to be able to show how you've met any objectives set for you, helped contribute to the business, and added value.
If you are genuinely ready to move up the ladder, and there are enough rungs in your workplace, then even when there is a pay freeze in place, there's scope to ask for a promotion. If this is your plan, think about what you have done to prepare for promotion, and what you can suggest. In some organisations, taking on responsibility for a project will count in your favour; in others additional training will win lots of brownie points.
4. Choose your moment
Every employer is different, so check whether there's an official procedure you have to go through. If it's open for discussion at any time, try to pick a quiet time, around appraisals season, or in the rosy glow after a successful project - and set up an informal meeting, so they know you have something serious to discuss. This sort of chat needs to be done face-to-face.
5. Prepare for every eventuality
Ideally they'll say yes, but what if they say no? You need to think through the consequences, and try to structure the conversation so things aren't awkward if they say no. Don't threaten to leave if you don't get the pay rise (unless you want to leave anyway), don't get emotional, and try to broker a positive compromise if there's no more money available. This could mean, for example, asking them to consider a pay rise during the next salary review, or asking to be considered for a significant project so you can demonstrate your readiness for promotion.
If you approach it in the right way, then even if you end up with no more cash in the immediate future, you will have reminded your boss of how valuable you are, which should pay off when it comes to promotions and pay rises later.
Unfortunately, of course, not every organisation works like this. There are plenty, including the public sector, where promotion can be an archaic process, and pay rises are mandated by someone who has never met you, and doesn't care how hard you work.
Sadly for these people, the only option is to go back to the household budget again. Where every extra penny has already been cut, they may need to look at whether they are entitled to any help from benefits or from charities.
Anyone in this position would give their right arm for the right to ask for a pay rise - so if you have that right, don't squander it.