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Only 41% of workers think they’re paid ‘what they are worth’

A new survey by HR software provider CIPHR suggests that most people don’t believe they’re being paid what they think ‘they are worth’ to do their current jobs. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the longer it’s been since they last received a pay rise – then the more inclined they are to feel this way.

CIPHR polled 1,005 British adults to discover more about how employees perceive their pay. The findings reveal that less than half (41%) of workers consider their salary to adequately reflect their job role and experience. The other half (44%) think they’re being paid less than they should be, and one in six (15%) can’t decide one way or the other.

By comparing whether employees agree or disagree with the idea that they are paid ‘what they are worth’ to the last time they received a pay rise, the results appear to show a direct correlation between the two. Those that have waited over a year for a salary increase, are more likely (67%) to be dissatisfied with their earnings. While the majority (60%) of those who received a pay rise within the last six months think the opposite.

Notably, people occupying senior management positions, such as owners, CEOs, CFOs and C-level executives, are more likely to feel adequately rewarded for their efforts, with the majority (64%) agreeing that they are paid ‘what they are worth’. Two-fifths (40%) of them report getting a pay rise in the last six months.

Not so for non-management staff, however, who make up around 64% of survey respondents. They are among the most likely (48%) to think they’re underpaid and the least likely (33%) to have had a pay rise within the last six months.

While an employee’s perception of what they earn can be shaped by numerous different factors, such as job title, organisational role, and experience, for example, it can only really be quantified in monetary terms. Around £45,000 seems to be the sweet spot for most, which is significantly higher than the national average (according to the Office for National Statistics, the median annual pay for full-time employees in the UK is £31,461). Nearly half (48%) of people earning an income of over £45,000 think they are being paid ‘what they are worth’. On the flipside, 46% of those earning less than £45,000 don’t think they are being paid ‘what they are worth’.

Given that around two-fifths (38%) of employees say they haven’t had a pay rise in over a year, and around the same number (43%) say they haven’t requested one in over a year, it’s easy to question why so many people have accepted the status quo? This poll doesn’t provide a definitive answer to that, but it does perhaps illustrate the maxim: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Workers at smaller companies (with 26 to 50 employees) seem the least likely to request a pay rise, with only 50% having done so within the past year, compared to 55% of those at larger organisations (with over 251 staff).

Women also seem less likely than men to request a pay rise, with only 54% compared to 60% having asked their employers for a raise within the past year. When it comes to getting one, slightly more women (63%) than men (60%) actually got a pay rise.

To find out how many people were successful in negotiating a salary increase, CIPHR compared the last time employees requested a pay rise to the last time they received a pay rise. A third (33%) of the employees who requested a pay rise within the last month, got one in the last month; two-thirds (68%) of the employees who requested a pay rise within the last six months, got one in the last six months; and three-quarters (77%) of the employees who requested a pay rise within the past year, also got one in the past year (most – 54% – around the same time they asked for one).

The majority (63%) of survey respondents that say they haven’t requested a pay rise in over a year, haven’t got one in over a year. Only a third (37%) bucked this trend. So, perhaps for employees, it does pay to ask.

The results from CIPHR’s latest survey (conducted on 23 September 2021) are available at