Summer of strikes: How to get a reasonable pay rise

·6 min read
pay rise LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 30, 2022 -  ASLEF union members take strike action, limited trains service at Kings Cross station. (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Pay rise: ASLEF union members took strike action in July, leading to limited trains services. Photo: Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty

The summer of strikes has already hit seven in 10 businesses, and it’s not over yet.

The fact that pay has fallen so far behind inflation means workers across the UK are taking industrial action in the coming weeks, to push for pay rises.

But while unionised workers have this option, if you’re on your own, you may need to consider five steps that can boost your chances of a pay rise.

This summer will see strikes affecting everything from post to rail travel, but this is more likely to be an option in the public sector, where 52% of workers belong to a union than in the private sector where only 13% are members. It means most people will need to explore other options for securing a pay rise.

Find out where you stand

The first step is to find out where you stand.

The ONS figures show that almost one in four employers with 10 or more members of staff raised wages in June, and one in 20 larger employers have given staff one-off lump-sums in the past three months.

If your employer hasn’t said anything about either, talk to your manager or the HR department, and check whether they are considering them.

Happy businesswoman hr manager handshake hire candidate selling insurance services making good first impression, diverse broker and client customer shake hand at business office meeting job interview
Consider areas where you have gone above and beyond your job description when asking for a pay rise. Photo: Getty

Ask for a pay rise

If there’s no widespread pay rise on the cards, step two is to ask for one.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that rampant inflation is a good enough argument to persuade your employer, but they need to know why they should make an exception for you.

Start by investigating what people are being paid for the same job with your competitors. Websites like or job sites like Indeed are good places to look.

Staff shortages in a number of industries have been pushing wages up, so check whether yours have been keeping pace.

If you’re getting the going rate, consider areas where you have gone above and beyond your job description. Any extra projects you worked on, responsibilities you took on or training could all add weight to the argument that you’re actually doing a more senior job than the one you’re being paid for.

Apply for a promotion

If your employer refuses to increase your pay, or if there are no exceptions to their pay policies, step three is to consider whether you can apply for a promotion.

In some organisations this is more difficult because you need to wait for an internal vacancy, or go through a process at a specific time of year, but other employers are more open.

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Again, preparation is the key, and so think about ways in which you’ve already proved you’re ready for a promotion and added value to the business.

Look elsewhere

If you hit a brick wall here, the fourth step is to consider whether you could be more fairly rewarded elsewhere.

There are still almost 1.3 million vacancies in the UK, and the number of unemployed people has fallen behind the number of vacancies for only the second time on record. If your skills are particularly in demand, you’re likely to find wages have risen since you last moved.

If there’s nothing suitable at the moment, you can still do the preparation now, so that when something comes up, you stand the best possible chance of being first in line.

That doesn’t just mean updating your CV and signing up to jobs sites. It also means working on your networks — both social media like Linked In and in real life too.

Read more: When will the UK's house price bubble burst?

Talk to people you know in the area where you want to work, and ask them to put you in touch with people they know. The harder you work on your network, the more likely you are to spring to someone’s mind when they start recruiting.

One common approach is to get a job offer and then go back to your employer and use it to force a pay rise out of them. If you plan to do this, you need to factor in the fact they may just let you go.

You also need to consider the risk that they give you a pay rise now, and then hold off in future so you’re not being paid more than other people in the business doing the same thing.

pretty young blonde woman with blue denim shirt works in garden at vegetable patch and is happy
You can even rent out your garden for anything from growing vegetables to camping. Photo: Getty

Consider other ways to bring in extra cash

Finally, if all else fails, you may need to focus on ways of increasing the amount of money you earn without a pay rise.

There has to be a balance, because there’s only so much overtime or additional jobs we can take on before we burn ourselves out, but it’s worth looking into your options.

You can also consider whether there are any other ways you can bring in extra cash — and whether a side hustle makes sense.

You could leverage things you own. So, for example, if you own your own home and you have the space, you might try renting out a room — either to a lodger or through Airbnb (ABNB).

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If you have a driveway and live somewhere where parking is difficult, you could rent that space out and there are services which enable you to let parts of your home as office space to people who don’t have room to work from home. You can even rent out your garden for anything from growing vegetables to camping.

None of these options are easy. Some people will find asking for a pay rise or promotion fairly excruciating, while others hate the idea of networking — whether online or in person.

Having to work harder to take home the same pay after inflation feels particularly unfair. However, right now, with inflation running so hot and set to stay high into next year, we may not be able to afford to rule anything out.

Watch: How to negotiate a pay rise