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Is It OK to Ask for a Pay Rise During a Pandemic?

Let’s address the elephant in the room.

It’s more than OK to want to be rewarded and recognised, especially when you’ve earnt it. After all, nobody had ‘pandemic’ written in their calendar with a red circle around it at the start of the year… Aside from the major global and societal impacts, there are a bunch of lesser, yet still impactful, side effects. Like your pay packet, which may have been just about to increase as COVID-19 hit.

 So how do you do it? Should you even do it? Financially, emotionally, professionally, morally, asking for a pay rise right now is a minefield. We’re here to help.

Treat it in the same way that you’d approach seeking endorsement for an idea or funding for a project. Start by assessing the state of play, gathering the facts, and giving your stakeholders notice before presenting your case.

Understand the reasons that you deserve a pay rise

Presumably you are already being paid for the work that you do, in line with market rates and relevant awards. That leaves two key factors to consider when asking for a pay increase:

  • Going above and beyond the requirements of your role
    • Have you done this and if so how? You need to be able to articulate the additional value that you’ve added. It may be taking on extra duties, working additional hours, being involved in special projects, finding additional savings or winning new customers.
    • Have you taken on additional responsibilities? Have you picked up someone else’s work while they’ve been away? Have you taken the lead on a project? Are you now managing people, or managing additional teams? Have events in your workplace resulted in you now doing a role that is clearly more senior than the one you were hired to do?
  • Your performance
    • What have you delivered?
    • How have you delivered it? E.g. have you championed your organisation’s culture and values?
    • Do you have tangible examples of your achievements? These could be increasing revenue, dollars saved, efficiencies gained, helping to improve the culture or another team member, or customer feedback.

Know your worth

Take the time to research pay rates and salary in your profession. You can do this by speaking to a trusted Recruitment professional. Clicks releases salary data regularly; ask your Clicks Account Manager for more information. Also review online resources such as Job Outlook, PayScale and SEEK.

In addition to looking for salary data, check for up to date information about employability in your field. Do a quick web search for your job title: if there are dozens of vacancies in your geographic region that have been up for weeks, that’s probably not a great sign that your skills are in high demand. This may impact the strength of your position.

Understand what is happening in your organisation

Every organisation has been impacted differently by COVID-19. Some have never been busier, while others have had to make positions redundant and stand down staff in great numbers. Assess what is happening with your company by asking the following questions:

  • What has your company communicated the impact on it of COVID-19 to be?
  • Review your company’s announcements for impact on revenue and business forecasts
  • Consider if there have been redundancies, if there have been pay cuts, or applications for government assistance such as JobKeeper
  • Is there a company-wide freeze on salary increases or additional headcount? If so, can you articulate why your case should be an exception?

Once you’ve got a good handle on all of the above, you should be clearer on whether or not it’s appropriate to ask for a pay increase.

How to ask for a pay increase

If you’ve reviewed the above and have decided to proceed, here’s what we recommend:

  • Be factual and respectful in your approach
  • Be prepared:
    • Have all the data you’ve collected on hand
    • You might even like to write a script for the conversation
    • Practice the conversation with family or a friend
    • Decide what your response will be if the answer is no
  • Think about your audience:
    • Let your manager know ahead of time that you’d like to have a pay-related conversation. No-one likes to feel ambushed
    • Consider how to convey the supporting data for your pay increase request. Spreadsheets and graphs are a great way to simplify a lot of information if appropriate to your role. Otherwise it may be previous performance review data, customer testimonials, net promoter scores, or over-achievement of targets.
    • Consider how your manager likes to receive information and reflect this in your behaviour during the discussion
    • Do it via Zoom (not email!)
    • Once you’ve stated your case, employ one of my best Secret Weapons: the Shut Up rule. Say what you’d like, then “Shut Up”. Don’t worry how long or uncomfortable the silence is, you must not be the next person to speak. Some people get nervous from the silence, and worry that they’ve asked for too much, so they immediately start talking themselves down from their previous position. Whatever happens, don’t be that person!
    • Don’t expect an answer on the spot. Your manager may support you completely, but may not have the authority to approve increases right now. It’s reasonable to let them take the time required for your requests to go through the proper channels.  In some cases right now, these approvals can only be given at Board level, which may not even be in the same country as you. So be patient and do great work in the meantime to make your boss feel like they have made the right decision in backing your request.

Be prepared to be flexible and to work harder

If a pay increase is not possible during this time, consider what other benefits your employer could offer to recognise your performance. What would the additional money go towards that your employer may be able to assist with? Tuition assistance, additional annual leave, providing you with a coach, a parking space, gym membership, flex-time, entry into internal leadership programs, or time off for volunteering or giving back to your community. Think creatively about how you can achieve a win/win outcome.

Additionally, be prepared for feedback, and seek out what else you may need to do to get that pay increase if the answer is no this time.

In short, if everything adds up, then yes, it’s okay to ask for a pay rise during this pandemic. If you’ve gone through all of the above and still have question marks against some of the big ticket items, it might be better to holster that request until things improve.

If you are on the market for your next IT opportunity, take a look at our job board to see all of our current vacancies. You can also register with Clicks via the Job Seekers page on our website. We also have a fantastic referral program that can earn you $500 for every great person you send our way. Find out more here.



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