Pinpointing the Perfect Pay Rise

Pay increases are a tricky subject for employees and their bosses. For the employee there’s a delicate balance to be struck between feeling suitably rewarded for your efforts, while also being mindful of how bold your request is. For employers, meanwhile, this trickiness is compounded by the fact that much of the past year the cost of living has been rising faster than average wages.

Meanwhile, the UK’s record low levels of unemployment could trigger stiff competition among employers to recruit and retain staff. As a result, many employers would be wise to prepare for potentially direct conversations surrounding wage increases with their employees.

Here at Indeed, we wanted to know what people in Britain perceive to be the perfect pay rise to fund what they deem a “comfortable” life. We surveyed 1001 people to find out the answer to this, and other questions surrounding the contentious area of pay rises. Let’s take a look at our findings.

UK workers need an extra €7200 to feel comfortable.

UK workers need an extra £7,200 to feel comfortable

So what is the ideal number for the average UK worker? It came out at a £7,200 increase to an existing salary. For someone earning the average UK salary of £27,600, that would equate to an extra £3.46 per hour or a 26% pay rise annually, pushing an average worker onto £34,800 per annum.

That’s a steep increase, and it seems unlikely that many UK workers will see a boost to their pay packets quite that large! Even so, the rising cost of living is a recurring theme in discussions on employment, as is the question of how employers should reflect this in the salaries offered to their workforce.

The geographic split of Indeed’s data gives a useful insight into the demands both of businesses—and their employees—around the country.

In line with southeast England’s higher cost of living, people living in the region gave the highest figure for the pay rise they felt was required to reach a “comfortable” lifestyle— £9,900. At the other end of the scale, employees in Wales said a more modest rise of £4,300 would suffice, reflecting the lower cost of living in the nation.

Indeed also asked respondents whether or not their current pay already allowed them to live comfortably. Here we found that despite the fact that some people in the southeast would like an extra £9,900 to live comfortably, almost a quarter of respondents here were satisfied with their wages—in fact, 23% of employees surveyed in the southeast of England said they do not need a pay rise because their ‘life is comfortable’. At the other end if the scale, only 5% of those working in Bristol feel their current salary gives them a comfortable life.

Londoners aren’t shy about asking for pay rises

But while many Britons may dream of a hefty pay rise this year, the likelihood of someone actually plucking up the courage to ask for one varies widely from region to region.

63% of Londoners intend to ask their employer for a pay rise in 2018.

If you’re doing business in the nation’s capital, get ready: those working in London proved to be the most forthright when asking their boss for a pay rise. In fact, two-thirds of Londoners (63%) are planning to do just that in 2018.

Boldness? Well, maybe, Londoners already come in with the highest average salaries in the country at £34,473 but the capital’s higher costs of living mean that that salary doesn’t stretch as far as it would elsewhere. Consider, for instance, that Norwich and Sheffield, where the cost of living is considerably lower, many employees seem comparatively satisfied with their salaries—here 74% and 77% are not planning to ask for a pay rise.

Fewer women than men will ask for a pay rise in 2018

While the research conducted by Indeed highlights the regional differences in employee perceptions on pay rises, the data also indicates a gender split in workers’ willingness to ask for a pay rise.

Only 29% of women surveyed are happy with their rate of pay, while 37% of men are satisfied with their wages. However although fewer women than men are satisfied with their wages, they are less likely to ask for an increase: only 38% of women surveyed told us they would be asking for a pay rise in 2018, compared to 51% of men.

38% of women said they'll be asking for a pay rise in 2018 compared to 51% of men.

Why do we see these differences? The most troubling reason is fear of the consequences, which is stronger among women than men: 16% of women believe that asking for an increase to their salary could cost them their job, and 11% of men fear the same thing.

Embarrassment also plays a factor: just over one in ten women in the workplace (11%) report feeling embarrassed to ask  their boss for a pay rise in 2018, compared to 4% of men

One thing is certain: It’s important for both employees to know their worth and ask for pay rises accordingly, and employers to be fair in rewarding their employees. To that end, all employers should create environments where all workers feel as comfortable as possible to discuss their pay.  

The ideal pay rise is, of course, subjective to the circumstances of an employee. It remains to be seen in the coming year whether these employee aspirations will be reflected in the actual wage growth recorded.


Researchers interviewed 1,001 employed people living in the UK for the survey. The research was carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed.

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