How to ask for more money at work

The UK has some of the most unequal pay in Europe – for anyone unsure about how to ask for a pay rise, careers expert Caroline Arnold answers our reader questions about asking for more money

The UK has some of the most unequal pay in Europe with more than one in eight large organisations having a gender pay gap in favour of men of more than 30 per cent and four out of five organisations have been found to have gender pay gaps in favour of men.

To honour International Women’s Day, Healthista spoke to career coach and pay expert Caroline Arnold asking her the questions our readers and office colleagues wanted to know answers to.

paying money at restaurant, 8 questions smart women want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthista

Q. How do you work out what you’re worth and stick to it?

Do some market rate research to see what the current market is paying for your role in your industry. You can do this by speaking to recruitment agencies and asking what vacancies they have at your level and what they are paying. Many recruitment companies will have a market rate guide on their website which you can download. It’s also worth checking job vacancy websites like Reed and Indeed. Lastly, look at vacancies in your company and see if there are any similar roles which specify the salary.

You want your boss to be as relaxed as possible with time to listen to you, so consider having the meeting after lunch.

Q. If I’m not happy with the money I’m on, should I wait for pay review or just ask for more money?

Asking for a pay rise can be a daunting and nerve-wracking experience. It may be something that you put off, waiting and hoping for your employer to recognise your amazing contribution to the company. However, I would recommend you take the bull by the horns and have the discussion with your manager. By following the tips below you may find yourself with a fantastic pay rise.


Before you ask your manager for a meeting consider when is the best time for you both to sit down undisturbed. In most work places this would mean Monday mornings are best avoided because your boss may well be firefighting. Conversely, Friday afternoon is probably not a great time either as your boss will, in all likelihood, be winding down for the weekend. If your team is working towards a deadline and a big pitch then avoid this period too. You want your boss to be as relaxed as possible with time to listen to you, so consider having the meeting after lunch.

female office workers chatting, 8 questions smart women want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthista


Before you go and ask for a 20 percent increase do your market research. Check your role in your industry is paying this externally. If it isn’t, prepare to justify why you think your role deserves the increase.

Be prepared

When you have your meeting with your line manager, say that you’d like to discuss your salary.  Explain you’ve made a note of your justifications for this request and that you’d like to go through it with them if they are agreeable.

Reasons you could use to support your request for a pay increase might be:

  • Your role is not aligned with the market rate for the same or broadly similar work
  • Your role has taken on more responsibility
  • The addition of a new geographic area to your area of responsibility
  • You’ve taken on new line management responsibilities

Be armed with any relevant facts and figures so that, if your boss asks any questions, you can respond immediately.

Needing a new car, holiday or mortgage is not a valid reason to ask for a pay rise

Follow up with an email

I believe it’s always good practice to email after the meeting thanking your manager for their time and giving a summary of what you discussed. If you agreed on a date by which they’d get back to you then add this to the email

woman writing email on computer, 8 questions smart women want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthista

Ignore personal reasons

When asking for a pay rise stick to the facts concerning your job and don’t mention that you need to buy a new car and that this increase would allow you do that. Needing a new car, holiday or mortgage is not a valid reason to ask for a pay rise and may make your line manager question your professionalism


If, for any reason, your manager refuses your request for a raise, ask them for feedback on why this is. Clarify with your manager what you need to do in the next few months to be considered for an increase. Ask too for a salary review in six months’ time.

Q. How can I find out what my colleagues earn?

Many companies have done all they can to stop colleagues talking about this and some even used to have a clause inserted into contracts saying that you couldn’t discuss it. From April 2017 employers in the UK with more than 250 staff are now required by law to publish data on their gender pay gap. We are starting to see some companies publish this and as this data comes out we are seeing more transparency and conversations taking place about where the company is and what action can be put into place to close any gap.

male colleague office, 8 questions smart women want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthista

Q. What do I do when I find out my male colleague is earning more than me?

Your male colleague may have a different role or level of responsibility so that may justify the higher salary.  However, if you think you have the same role and responsibilities then speak to your HR team and your manager and raise your concerns. If you aren’t satisfied with their responses then have a chat with ACAS or a lawyer to understand your rights and what your options are.

Q. What do I do when I’m given a pay rise and my colleague isn’t?

You may have asked for the pay rise and they didn’t. If so, well done for taking action, give yourself a pat on the back. Encourage your colleague to ask for a pay rise following the tips above and they may then also get a pay rise. If they did ask and didn’t get the raise then encourage them to ask for specific feedback on why they weren’t successful. What can they do in the next 6/12 months? Encourage them to get an agreement that it can be reviewed at a certain date. Recommend to your colleague that they then email their manager summarising all this discussion in an email.

consoling colleague office, 8 questions smart women want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthista

Q. What do I do when my responsibilities and workload has increased but my pay hasn’t?

Speak to your manager and HR team and explain your responsibilities and workload have increased but your pay hasn’t and ask if it can be reviewed.

Q. What if I’m on a zero hours contract? I don’t want to rock the boat but I can’t live not knowing how much the next pay check will be.

If you want to have the security of knowing exactly what you’ll earn from week to week then start to find yourself a permanent role. Speak to your manager and HR team to see if you can transfer on to a permanent contract. If not, then consider seeking a role outside your current employer. Update your CV, LinkedIn profile, connect and meet with recruitment consultants, network and ask people if they know of any roles coming up.

Caroline Arnold, 8 questions smart women's want to know about negotiating a pay rise by healthistaCaroline Arnold is a career coach from the UK. After leaving her old job and relocating to Bristol, Caroline Arnold started her own coaching company. She wanted to help women in all kinds of careers overcome the challenges before them. Whether she’s coaching individuals, groups or entire companies, her goal is the same: to prove that confidence, passion and hard work should always lead to a rewarding career, no matter who you are or what your gender is.

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