• Career Advice

Is it appropriate to ask for a salary increase during a pandemic?

Many different businesses have been affected negatively by the pandemic and have been forced to endure restrictions. Restaurants and bars have closed their doors for months at a time, office workers have been discouraged from going to work physically and there have been a number of other professions which have had to adapt and change to the new government advice.

It’s true that this upheaval has had a detrimental impact on businesses of all kinds, however the life science sector has come out of this relatively unscathed. The vast majority of people working in life sciences cannot undertake their work at home as it takes place in laboratories, in hospital settings and in the field. Working from home is not an option unless it involves simply researching online for a study, as all the equipment needed cannot be easily taken to a home setting.

During these times, when dedicated employees in the life science sector are dutifully attending workplaces, is it the right time to ask for an increase in pay? Even before the pandemic hit, employees were in two minds about asking for a salary increase. It’s natural to question such a move for numerous reasons. You may not know how the company is functioning financially at the top, and it may be that the employer has already let some people go, has begun cutting down on supplies, or even made it known to the workforce that the belt has to be tightened.

Signs like this can give you an indication of whether asking for a raise would be successful or not. However, you also need to balance this with whether you feel you deserve an increased salary. You need to ask yourself questions such as whether you have been working harder recently to deliver better results, whether you think you are worth more than you’re currently being paid, if other similar institutions are paying their employees more, and whether you need that extra money to cover essentials.

Asking for an increased salary is daunting for anyone no matter what field they work in, but in the life sciences in sectors such as bio-engineering, medical imaging and agrotechnology research, the pay scale is a fixed and immutable number due to the nature of the work. Pay raises are normally agreed to when the company is growing year on year and the profits are healthy, but in life sciences where research and development takes place, grants and budgets are laid out yearly to compensate the workers and is not subject to change, especially if you have a contract in place.

For private organisations this is somewhat easier to negotiate than public institutions, however no matter where you work you should never be afraid to ask for a pay rise if you feel it is deserved. So how do you go about actually requesting an increase in your pay? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways to present your case.

  1. Know you much you’re worth. In the life sciences, salaries usually come on a scale dependent on your experience, and you can do some quick research online to figure out how much your job should be paid at. Compare with other positions being offered in similar institutions.
  2. Use real data. If you can show that your performance has been above what is expected by way of KPIs, then you have much more of a chance of getting what you want. If you can demonstrate that you’ve provided real value, then they are likely to look on your request favourably.
  3. Back yourself up with information. There are numerous things that work to your advantage when asking for a pay rise, such as if you have been promoted, have taken on extra responsibility or gained new skills. These make you more valuable as an employee and warrant higher pay.
  4. Ask at the right time. This is crucial because you don’t want to blow your chances by asking offhand at a weekly one-to-one meet with your boss. You need to request a special meeting with the person in charge of controlling pay rises, as you can only really ask once per year.
  5. Whichever sector you are working in, if you believe that you qualify for a raise even during these times of pandemic, then you are well within your rights to ask for one, just do it in the correct manner. If your request is refused, or you feel like you are not valued to the fullest extent in your current role, why not reach out to a specialist recruiter in the life sciences such as Xplore, where you will find a dedicated team ready to help you find your ideal position and a salary you’re fully satisfied with.

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