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Asking for a pay rise based on inflation

With inflation currently at 8.3%, the costs of basic goods are skyrocketing. We’re being hit with rising energy bills as well as a groceries bill that is going up and up. 

Companies are trying to counter these rising costs for their workers with increased wages.  Employers across the US plan to offer an average raise of 4% in 2023. However, despite inflation steadying and decreasing in recent months, employers will still see a decrease in the value of their pay packet. We look into this more, below.


Should I be asking for a pay rise?

If you haven’t seen a salary increase in recent months, you’ll be worse off than you were a few months ago. 

High inflation has left US workers’ buying power dipping. In real terms, average hourly wages have fallen by 2.8%. If you’re feeling more stretched than before, know that you’re not alone. 28% of US workers said they’re struggling financially, and 38% indicated that their friends and family were, according to insights from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

For employers, wages are considered “sticky” meaning that they tend not to go down. Therefore companies are slow to raise wages while they determine the long-term implications of inflation and how to balance wages and inflation. 

In order to get inflation under control, we as consumers must buy less, decreasing the competition to buy, and thus steady the increase in pricing. Therefore, if we all got inflation-busting pay packets, prices could continue to rise at high rates. 

In short, there’s no right answer, but workers should absolutely be looking for an increase, even if it does simply match the national average wage increase. 

Employees are being encouraged to make requests for pay rises that focus on individual value, rather than just due to increased living costs, as not all employers can afford to meet inflation for every employee. 


What do pay rises look like across sectors?

Across the US there is a huge disparity in wages in the public sector vs the private sector, with the public sector struggling to keep up. Between Q4 2019 and Q4 2021, both the public and private sectors saw a reduction in wages when adjusted to inflation. Across all types of work, public sector employees saw a 3.7% decrease in the value of their wages, while private sector employees only saw a 0.5% hit. 

In service occupations, the difference is even more dramatic. Public sector employees saw a 1.8% loss versus private sector employees seeing an increase of 3.4% – the only increase recorded. 

Public sector employees are however due their biggest pay increase if Biden’s latest plan goes through congress. In 2023, they’ll see a 4.6% pay rise, compared to 2.7% in 2022. However, this is still below inflation and below the 5.1% federal employees are asking for to begin making up the 22.47% pay gap between federal employees and their private sector peers. 

In government, senators have not seen a pay increase (from their annual salary of $174,000) since 2008/9.


Will living costs come down?

Unfortunately not. This is why knowing your worth when it comes to pay is vitally important. 

With some signs suggesting the worst is behind us, experts suggest it will likely be at least a couple of years before costs of goods decrease, if at all. 

The Fed’s response to inflation has been to raise interest rates, encouraging us to save rather than spend so that we buy fewer goods. With us collectively buying less, it is hoped that prices will stop rising so fast. 


How much should my job pay me?

Here’s where salary transparency is key. If your organization publishes an annual salary report, focussing on for example the gender pay gap, you should be able to work out where you sit within your organization’s pay scale. 

What’s more, 17 states currently have laws in place regarding pay transparency. These laws tend to protect employees who would like to freely discuss pay without fear of retaliation from their employer. 

Some states go further around pay transparency at the point of applying for a job, or when you’re working. It’s absolutely worth knowing what pay transparency looks like in your state so you can use this to your advantage. 

Outside of your employer, spend time investigating your market rate. Look at what competitors are offering for your role, value your resume, and search for jobs you’re qualified for. 

If your job has dramatically changed, your responsibilities have increased and you’ve been promoted in all but name, try to benchmark what you should be paid based on your roles and responsibilities rather than your job title. 


How many people successfully get a pay rise when they ask for one?

Not a lot of workers get a raise when they ask for one. It’s around 1 in 6. 

In the US, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but they’re less successful. For women who ask for a raise, only 15% receive one, whereas, for men, they’re successful 20% of the time. This exacerbates the 18% pay gap between male and female workers. 

This situation only worsens for black and ethnic minority workers. Hispanic women experience the most significant pay gap of 43%

Asking for a raise isn’t the only way to get one. Research has shown that 23% of firms plan to raise wages again in the coming months while 8% are still thinking about it. 


When is the right time to ask for a salary adjustment?

Once you’ve passed your probationary period, salary discussions can always be on the table. 

Some employers will do regular salary reviews either every year or every six months. Although these are often an opportunity for your employer to put a number on the table, make sure you have a number in mind. 

Outside of these formal discussion points, keep an eye out for other opportunities.

Your role has changed and you’ve taken on more responsibility. Perhaps there is an additional person reporting to you or you’re leading a strategic project? This could be an opportunity to not only discuss a salary increase but also a potential promotion. 

You’d like a promotion due to performing above and beyond for a significant period. If your annual reviews are coming up as exceptional time and time again and you’re always getting great feedback from colleagues this could be a time to ask for a promotion and a pay increase. 

You’re being paid below your colleagues for the same job. Can be a really difficult one to navigate. Frame it as a discussion around where your salary sits within a market rate, how well you’re doing, and why you deserve more money. 

You’ve been offered a new job. Switching jobs can have a dramatic effect on your pay packet. On average, it’s 9.7% in real wages, accounting for inflation, but if you’re willing to switch industries or roles it could be even more. 

With employers desperate to retain top talent, counter offers are not unusual. Yep, quitting your job can be a great way to secure a pay rise – either with your employer or a new one. 

Financially the books aren’t balancing. This is something to be really mindful of. With basic costs increasing it can be hard to budget. Spend some time going through all of your expenses, and keep a track of how these are increasing month on month. 

Your financial well-being is important, so make sure you discuss this with your employer. If a pay rise is off the table, ask about their financial well-being policy. According to Bank of America, at least half of US-based companies have a financial well-being policy in place. And it’s hardly a surprise. 65% of workers report that their debt is a problem, and nearly half feel that worrying about finances distracts them at work. 

Smart employers should and are caring about multiple aspects of their employees’ lives, and finance is a key factor. 


Ready to ask for a pay rise?

Although it is best to frame a pay rise request around your contributions to your workplace and increased responsibilities, asking for a raise should in real terms help you to cover your increased living costs. It’s vitally important that you ask for enough to live on. 


💡 Read more: How are inflation and rising living costs impacting UK businesses?

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