Advice column: is it dangerous to request a pay rise?

Dear Ash

I have been in my current role for a few years now, and due to pressures of the credit crunch and the threat of redundancy I have not had a pay rise for over two years. Moreover, I have had to work longer hours due to the department failing to replace people who have left. I feel I deserve a pay rise in the circumstances and do not think this is an unreasonable request. However, my colleague thinks I would be making myself unpopular with the partners by asking for a rise.

Ash replies

The issue of a pay rise is often a tricky one to raise, even in more stable economic conditions.  Brits often view the subject of pay as a sensitive one, especially in the private sector, where, historically, how much an individual earns is normally shrouded in secrecy.

You are not alone in having more pressures at work due to the economic downturn, as employees are under increasing pressure to generate more work, with the potential overhanging threat of redundancy. Nevertheless, you seem to have been working intently and should therefore be able to prove your value to the business.

It may therefore be worthwhile at least seeking some guidance from your line manager about the possibility of a pay rise in the circumstances.

Make sure, however, that in advance of speaking to your manager, you prepare a brief outline of the reasons for your request, including calculating the average number of hours you have been working and the fees you have been generating. This should at least provide your manager with a good basis for justifying a pay rise.

However, try to be realistic about the level of any increment in salary. Sometimes you can get a good indication of salary levels by contacting an employment agency to seek guidance as to expected salary for someone of your level of PQE in your position.

Although you may not necessarily be guaranteed any pay rise in the current climate, I still think it is worth at least raising the subject, because if you don’t ask, you don’t get! 


Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or

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