Weighing it all up

A pay rise request from an employee is part and parcel of every employer’s life. But failing to deal with the situation effectively can prove costly

Weighing it all up

The issue of pay is an emotive one at the best of times. And for business owners at the coal face, deciding upon an appropriate salary for staff can often be a challenging ordeal. Needless to say, a further test of managerial strength is provided when an employee puts in a pay rise request. Instead of cowering with trepidation when a request comes their way though, a decent first step is to accept that an employee has every right to ask the question. “If the employer looks panicked, the employee may lose confidence in their employer,” explains Enrique Garcia, consultant at the Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS). “Even worse, if you show them that you are somehow scared, they will keep doing it because quite simply they will think you are too scared to lose them.”

Essentially, no pay rise request should be met with surprise. Not only is it a regular occurrence in all businesses, but an efficient performance review system should ensure that any request comes at a time when a decision to grant a pay rise was already being strongly considered. But if the request does come somewhat out of the blue, getting to grips with the reasons is a good place to start.

“If the person is taking on more responsibility or people have left and they are being asked to cover more than one job, the employer should have been preempting that and not waiting for the employee to ask for a pay rise,” says Jane Hurn, finance director at business support firm Innovate Now. “But if somebody is having children or school fees have gone up, it is not necessarily down to the employer unless there is greater strain being put on that person, so much so that they should be recognised differently in terms of their pay.”

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of reaching a decision, the employee won’t necessarily be expecting one in an instant. Either way, making it clear that you will need a few days to weigh everything up is a useful strategy. “The important thing is to buy yourself time,” says Enrique. “If somebody comes in and says they want a pay rise and you say ‘sure, absolutely’, you may have bound yourself into a pay rise for somebody who doesn’t deserve it.” He adds: “He or she may be doing the job they are paid to do, but they may not be going over and above. In that sense, it may be better to tell them that you will reconsider a pay rise when they get to the appropriate level or standard.”

Of course, whatever decision is reached should leave the employee sufficiently satisfied, so collating all the evidence at one’s fingertips is essential. “It is about looking at the culture of the business and seeing how that fits in, and what the long-term view for the business is going to be,” says Hurn. “That person may have been, over the last six months, going above and beyond and doing more, but if the next six months are going to be quiet, it is six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

Moreover, as much as matters surrounding pay should be kept confidential, having access to the facts is also handy should news of a pay rise somehow find its way onto the grapevine. In the worst case scenario, another employee may feel discriminated against, so having that information on tap can stand you in good stead. “Should an employee try to bring a claim against you for discrimination because someone else got a pay rise and they didn’t, you are going to have to be able to justify that,” says Enrique. “At that point, you would then need hard facts to demonstrate why and give them some guidance to keep them happy and stop them from leaving.”

Ultimately though, a healthy application of transparency and understanding should ensure that a resolution on one’s salary sits well with both the individual and the company as a whole. 

Adam Pescod
Adam Pescod

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