When it comes to pay rises, flex appeal can only go so far

woman working from home Image: Getty Images

When negotiating a pay rise, Financy founder Bianca Hartge-Hazelman warns against taking up flexible work rather than more cash.

The last time I asked for a pay rise, my boss offered me workplace flexibility instead. I sassily replied "wrong answer".

Okay, that's not entirely true; the truth is I was bitterly disappointed, heartbroken even.

It came at a time when I'd never worked harder to prove myself as a journalist and I was a working mother with a two-year-old daughter. Plus, I really needed the money and was losing sleep over it.

Money worries particularly around cash flow, tax and superannuation are among the most common financial troubles facing many Australians, according to a recent survey by Credit Union Australia (CUA). All of which makes a pay rise often a more important priority than job flexibility.

But as I discovered, asking for a pay rise doesn't always mean getting one, particularly if you're female.

Despite a view that women just don't ask for pay rises, and that this partly explains a gender pay gap, Australia-based research conducted in 2014 and recently published in the Harvard Business Review found the complete opposite.

The study found that women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time.

From my experience, getting knocked back on pay was because my employer assumed I would accept job flexibility in lieu of money and company budget restrictions were also a factor.

Research published by jobs website, SEEK, advises employers that if a company doesn't have the funds for a pay rise, then flexibility is right up there as an alternative. The study found that flexible work, such as working from home in particular, was more likely to appeal to females than males, at 29% compared to 14%.

But how much flexibility should you accept in lieu of pay?

It's important to know your own limitations on this and if a pay rise is what you really need, then it's important to put your business case forward in a way that directly says "don't offer me more flexible working".

And what's really important to remember, as Natalie Goldman, CEO of Fund to Fly, pointed out recently, flexible work is simply a form of working, not a financial benefit.

If you're ready to pop the pay rise question, here are some suggestions on what you can do when you're negotiating.

  1. Do your research. Understand what your job type is paying within your organisation and others.
  2. Present a clear business case for your pay rise. Identify what value you're bringing to the business and how it is helping profitability.
  3. Be bold and aim high in your pay negotiations. Suggest 10–20% higher than you want, to allow some wiggle room.
  4. Keep emotions out of your negotiations and focus on your business-linked performance.
  5. Understand that flexible work should not be linked to your financial compensation, because that is a way of working and not a benefit.

Of course if your employer is unable to offer you a pay rise, it's a good idea to know what else you might accept. There are options such as additional contributions to superannuation, extra annual leave, development training or linking a bonus to future sales targets.

If you think it's justified why not plan your own negotiation? The good news is despite slow wage growth, according to a survey by human resources organisation, The Adecco Group, both men and women indicated they would be more than likely to request a pay review this year than they were last year.

So what are you waiting for, make your proposal and get out there. And, good luck!

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is a journalist and entrepreneur and the founder of Financy. Finder X regularly features insights, analysis and opinion from leading Australian and global experts.

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Image: Getty Images

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