A CIPD survey of around 2,000 employees carried out this summer found 23% of them had asked their employer for a pay rise in the past couple of years. Further analysis found that men had been more likely to ask for a salary bump (25%) then women (20%). In this article I look further at the data to see how similar, or different, responses are to this question are by gender and reflect on the possible implications for HR and public policy.

Among the individuals questioned as to whether they have asked for a pay rise or not, Table 1 looks at the impact of job tenure. It shows that as length of service increases both men and women are more likely to ask for a pay rise. However, it also reveals that men are more likely than women to have asked for a pay increase in the first five years or the first ten years of service.

Table 1: Who asked for a pay rise?

Tenure Women Men
Up to a year 12 21
Up to 2 years 13 21
Up to 5 years 17 25
Up to 10 years 19 27
10 years or more 21 22

Base=2,179; men 1,125; women 1,054

One implication of these findings is that not only are men more likely to have asked for a pay rise then women, they are also more likely to have asked for a rise earlier on in their jobs then women. If men are more likely to ask for (and then get) a pay rise early on in their career, then they will enjoy the compounding effect that women will miss out on by leaving a request later in their careers.

When it comes to pay levels, Table 2 shows that women who earn up to £20,000 are less likely to have asked for a wage rise then men who earn this amount. Suggesting that some women are in danger of becoming stuck in low paid work because they do not ask for a pay rise earlier.

Table 2: Who asked for a pay rise, by gross earnings (%)?

Annual earnings Women Men
Up to £20,000 16 27
£20,000 to £39,999 25 26
£40,000 to £59,999 24 25
£60,000 and above 26 22

Base=1,890; men=983; women 907
Base=2,179; men 1,125; women 1,054

Table 3 shows what happened to those who have asked for a pay rise. Overall, it reveals that there is little difference by gender, with women being just as likely as men to get the pay rise that they asked for, or even more. The implication of these findings is that women are not more likely to discriminated against because of their gender for asking for a pay rise compared with men.

Table 3: What did people get when they asked for a pay rise (%)?

What they got Women Men
A pay increase 25 26
A pay increase, but it was less than asked for 30 29
The pay increase that was asked for 23 22
A pay increase that was more than was asked for 9 10
Still waiting for an answer 7 8
No pay increase, but something else instead (such as a new job title) 1 3
Other 4 1

Base=492; men 279; women 213

We also asked those who didn’t get the increase they had hoped for why they thought that was the case. Table 4 shows that for both women and men the most common explanation was that the person they approached for a salary increase did not have the money to give it to them.

While men were more likely than women to say that they didn’t get the rise they wanted because the person they asked didn’t have the authority to it, women were more likely than men to say that they didn’t know why their request had been rejected. This suggests that HR should try and ensure that line managers give employees an explanation if a pay rise isn’t given, such as through advice, training or toolkits.

Table 4: Why didn’t people get the pay rise they wanted (%)?

Reason Women Men
The person/s asked didn't have the money to give what was asked for 46 48
The person/s asked didn't have the authority to increase pay by what was asked for 18 25
Other 15 13
Don't know why the pay increase was not given 14 10
The person/s asked didn't explain why they couldn't give pay rise asked for 13 7
The person/s asked for a pay increase didn't view the person’s performance positively 5 7

Base=282; men 163; women 119

Given that at the time of our survey employment levels were at record highs and earnings had not yet returned to their pre-2008 levels in real terms, we were interested why more employees had not asked for a pay rise. To find out why this was the case, we asked the 77% of our respondents who had not asked for a salary hike.

The most common responses are reported in Table 5, with little difference in the responses given by men or women. The largest gap is in due to employees not being sure about the process of asking for a pay rise, while 5% of men (or one in 20) admit not knowing how to go about asking for a salary increase this proportion jumps to 10% (or one in 10). To close this knowledge gap, HR has a role to play in communicating to employees how pay decisions are made by the origination and what they need to do if they believe that they should get a wage rise.

Table 5: Why people haven’t asked for a pay rise (%)?

Why Women Men
I’ve already been given a pay rise with which I’m happy 25 26
It’s not worth my while asking for a pay rise as I know my line manager/organisation won’t give it 26 23
I already earn enough to enjoy a reasonable standard of living 15 19
I get paid appropriately given my responsibilities and achievements 17 16

Base=1,690; men 163; women 119

Overall, there’s a role for the people profession in helping their organisation being more transparent to employees about how pay is managed, in terms of how decisions are made and the outcomes of those decisions. This will help all employees judge whether they are being paid appropriately for their skills and achievements. It will also encourage employers to ensure that pay decisions are fair by reflecting contribution rather than unconscious prejudice and bias.

In terms of public policy, pay transparency has been given a boost by such reporting initiatives as gender pay gap reporting, the FRC new UK Corporate Governance Code and the Government’s good work plan, as well as by investors, such as the workforce disclosure initiative. Hopefully, this will help encourage firms to see the importance of fair reward and investing in training for those who make decisions about pay and communicate to staff about pay.

About the author

Charles Cotton, Senior Performance and Reward Adviser

Charles has recently led research into the business case for pensions, how front line managers make and communicate reward decisions, and managing reward risks, as well as the creation of a good practice guide on the annual pay review process. He is also responsible for the CIPD’s public policy work in the area of reward and is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD.

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