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It’s a given that we all want to be paid fairly for the work that we do. But surely, it’s just human nature that whatever we get, we will always want more? A recent survey found that that 61% of UK workers feel they are not paid fairly at work, but only a quarter (24%) admitted that they will ask their employer for a raise in 2023.

But thanks to the cost-of-living crisis, wage discontent in the UK is at its highest level and many employees have found themselves feeling anxious or overwhelmed, whilst others have been forced to cut their household spending as a result. Take the recent rise in industrial action that has become widespread in the public sector and it’s easy to see how this might become the norm as people demand that they should be paid more.

Can HR do more?

So, is there anything that HR can do to combat salary dissatisfaction and retain employees? It’s a difficult situation for employers as they try to manage employees’ expectations around pay. It’s also worth pointing out that businesses are also having to deal with economic and geopolitical uncertainty and rising costs. Plus, at the end of the day, they must also be able to balance the books. Whilst providing support is essential, in some cases it’s not always financial possible to keep pace with increasing salary demands.

Regardless of whether there is scope to increase salaries or not, it’s important that your HR team are available to listen, understand and then do what is necessary to ensure that an employee feels heard and supported. They must also follow up and check in regularly afterwards to find out if there are any lasting concerns following any decisions that have been made.

Top tips

Here are a few tips that may help.

  1. Meet in private with the unhappy employee. Listen to what they have to say and find out more about their personal circumstances. Discover whether it’s pay that’s the problem or whether there’s something more that needed addressing.
  2. Gather the facts. Compare the employees’ salary to market rates, making sure that your business pays the market average or above for your industry. Explain clearly how and why the business arrived at their wage.
  3. Conduct a pay review. Look at the pay of people performing the same or similar work and check that employee pay is equitable across the organisation.
  4. Undertake an internal performance review. Evaluate the employee’s work performance, identifies strengths and weaknesses. Find out if they are exceeding their current responsibilities and demonstrating a greater skill set than what’s currently expected of them, or not.
  5. Relook at your benefits package. Could you introduce more meaningful and valuable benefits instead of just increasing pay. Think about access to employee assistance programmes, higher pensions contributions, more flexible policies and better annual leave allowance.
  6. Create staff development opportunities. If there is room for employees to grow within your business, work with the employee to develop, improve, and hone existing skills and train them on new skills.
  7. Put processes in place to increase salary honesty, openness and transparency. Also ensure that for any employee to be awarded a pay rise and/or promotion they must meet quantifiable and widely understood KPI’s.

How can I help?

For further advice, support or information relating to pay discussions, email caroline.robertson@actifhr.co.uk