How to find out if you are being underpaid

Being underpaid can have a serious impact on your wellbeing and job satisfaction. Photo: Getty
Being underpaid can have a serious impact on your wellbeing and job satisfaction. Photo: Getty

Nobody wants to be paid less than their colleagues or than their worth, but it’s not always easy to tell if you are. And it’s pretty unlikely that your employer is going to come forward and say you should be on a higher salary.

Being underpaid can have a serious impact on your wellbeing, job satisfaction and engagement, so it’s important to make sure you are being paid fairly. Luckily, there are several ways you can find out.

First, it’s important to know how much you should be being paid for your job. “Research your worth, under the market, identify similar roles to benchmark against your current role so you have a reference point,” Emma Louise O’Brien, a career coach from Renovo.

There are several online salary tools that are helpful, including a Glassdoor version that allows you to search by job, company and location to find out what other users are paid in your same position or place. Use the tool to come up with a salary average. If you’re earning less than the estimate, you may be being underpaid.

Speak to your colleagues

This is a tricky one, but sometimes it is the only way to find out if you are being paid less than coworkers who are doing the same job. A good work friend may be happy to talk to you about their salary, but it might be an uncomfortable conversation.

READ MORE: How to know your own worth and get paid it

You also don’t know if they are being truthful – a colleague may not want you to know how much they are being paid, particularly if they suspect it might be more than your salary.

Remember being loyal doesn’t always pay off

Many people assume that staying at the same company for many years will pay off financially, but this isn’t necessarily true. A lot of businesses provide larger financial incentives to new hires, rather than upping the pay of existing employees.

It’s also worth thinking back to whether you negotiated your pay or not when you first started your job. If you didn’t, you may be being underpaid as a company will rarely come out with their best offer first. Your employer may be withholding cash.

Check if your salary is keeping up with inflation

If your wage hasn’t risen alongside inflation, you may be being underpaid. Sometimes, you can tell if your money isn’t going as far as it used to – for example, when food shopping, paying for fuel or topping up your travelcard. The Bank of England has an inflation calculator that shows you how prices have changed in recent years.

Check your pay is legal

You can also check if what you are being paid is legal with the government’s Check Your Pay website. If you are a worker aged 25 and over and not in your first year of an apprenticeship, you are legally entitled to at least the National Living Wage of £8.72 per hour.

If you aren’t being paid enough and you feel uncomfortable bringing it up with your manager, you can call the Acas helpline for confidential advice and support.

Plan your pitch

If the value of your work isn’t being reflected in your pay, it’s worth trying to negotiate with your employer to secure a higher salary. Arrange a meeting with your boss and prepare what you are going to say in advance. 

“How are you going to position this with your line manager? Consider what you want to say, when you are going to say it and practice,” O’Brien says. “Where do you add value to the business? What impact has your role had over the last 12 months?”

READ MORE: Why do women of colour pay an ’emotional tax’ at work?

It can help to bring evidence of your achievements with you to the meeting – and note the ways in which these successes have helped the company. Be prepared to argue your case that your company should be investing in you.

Similar to an important presentation or interview, you would plan and practise your pitch out loud,” O’Brien says. “Record or video yourself and self-critique. The more practice you have at pitching yourself, the more confident you will sound.”

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