Illustration depicting a sign with a pay rise concept.


The fear of rejection is the greatest barrier to UK employees asking for pay rises, according to a study by recruitment agency Randstad. Over a third (35.1%) cite fear of being turned down as the main reason for not asking for a salary boost, closely followed by their bosses’ reactions (34%) as well as the prospect of having to explain why they deserve it (29%).

If you don’t ask you don’t get, yet the fear of being turned down (35%) is the biggest barrier to asking for a pay rise,
72% of UK employees have not asked for an increase in the past three years
Other major concerns include the boss’s reaction (34%) and the prospect of having to justify yourself (29%)
Londoners know their worth: over a third (34%) of employees have asked for a pay rise in the past three years compared to 20% of East Anglians
Brits in North East England most forthright in asking for a pay rise in the UK with the highest proportion (12%) requesting an annual increase

The figures go some way to explaining why a staggering 72% of UK employees have not asked for an increase in the past three years and why only around a third (34%) would consider asking their current boss for a pay increase. Almost half of respondents (45%) are ‘very’ or ‘quite’ concerned that asking for a rise would jeopardise their current role.

Londoners are the most buoyant about their prospects for a salary rise with more than a third (34%) having asked for an increase over the past three years. But levels of confidence dwindle outside the capital. Least likely to ask for rises are East Anglians – 80.2% haven’t asked for a single increase in the past three years, followed by East Midlanders (80%) and employees in the North West (78%).

The most forthright about asking for pay increases are Brits in the North East of England where 12% have asked at least three times in the past three years, followed by Yorkshire & Humber (11.1%) and London (11%).

Men are more than twice as likely as women to have sought a pay increase (11.2% vs 5%), while more than seven in 10 (72%) women would never consider asking for a rise compared to just 57.8% of men. Fear of rejection (44%) was the main reason for women not wishing to take the plunge while, for men, the primary barrier was their managers’ reactions (26%).

Youngsters between 18-24 are the most eager to seek higher compensation – 14% have asked for at least three pay rises in the past three years – but this age group is also the most prone to doubt their abilities in front of their boss (48%), in comparison to the relatively stoic 55+ bracket (19%).

Mark Bull, UK CEO of global recruitment consultancy Randstad, comments: “Despite signs pointing to a shortage of professional skills in certain sectors, UK employees still aren’t taking advantage of the increasingly open employment market. With nearly three quarters not pushing for more money, and with explanations ranging from fear of rejection to jeopardising their current roles, questions should be raised about whether UK employers are creating the right working environment for their employees to stay and seek progression.”

Top three tips for securing pay rise:

Timing is everything. Get an idea as to when the budgets are agreed for the next calendar year. Most companies already have a clear policy on when pay rises can be agreed and will rarely flex the policy mid-term so be ready to acknowledge to your boss that your request is atypical if asking outside of the usual pay review cycle.
Do your research to get a solid understanding of the industry standards and general expectations for your role. If you feel undervalued, it’s worth looking at comparable positions in your sector to back up your claim. Building a well-researched case is vital to appearing professional and convincing your manager you’re worth the boost.
Draw on examples to illustrate where you’ve gone above and beyond your job description. Build your case for why you deserve a bigger pay packet and be prepared to back that up with hard facts – from sales figures to revenue you’ve helped secure.