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A year ago I got relocated to the UK from the Netherlands and continued in the same company(in one of the big 4). As I was happy to have a job in my host country I accepted the salary of 38.500. Which was below the range for my grade. I know since a couple of months now that I am being underpaid.

Since then, I have talked to HR and talked to people in the firm and the only thing they did is putting me back on the grade and increased my salary to 40.000. Since then I have been talking to colleagues and they have said they were on 55.000/60.000. Some of these people even have less experience than I.

Now, I am currently on maternity leave and once I get back I would like to have fair pay as compared to my colleagues, but I do not know how to approach it. Any ideas?

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    On maternity leave is a very weak place to bargain from. Salary change advice is partly about picking the right time. It's hard to show you provide value when you're doing nothing – Nathan Cooper Dec 17 '18 at 14:48
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    If you read the related post you will see that you should support your claim based on a market analysis. Which is something wider than "bob makes more money than me even though he only been here for..." – Homerothompson Dec 17 '18 at 14:50
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    You knew when you accepted the job you were being underpaid... you stated so yourself, I accepted the salary of 38.500. Which was below the range for my grade. So why does it bother you so much now? – JeffC Dec 17 '18 at 16:08
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    @PLL Of course but this seems like a case of jealousy and not unfair wages. She accepted the job knowing that she was being underpaid and now is acting like she just figured it out, I know since a couple of months now that I am being underpaid. It sounds like she just figured out that she's getting paid less than her coworkers and that's what is bothering her. – JeffC Dec 17 '18 at 18:05
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    @JeffC. You call it "jealousy", I call it "sense of fairness". Sounds more positive, doesn't it? If you were doing the same thing your colleagues are doing and they were earning 50% more, would it be ok for you? – BigMadAndy Dec 18 '18 at 7:44
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In order to get the raise you want, you will have to get a new job

No company will give someone a ~50% raise even if they've earned it. It's stupid as if they hired someone else the company would pay them the going rate, but won't raise your salary appropriately. This is simply a fact of working in an office.

Your best bet is to stay on Maternity Leave and begin job searching once you are able. Once you get a job with a better salary, simply quite the other job while on maternity leave.

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    Well, this happened to me, three times. Went from $10/h to $16/h at one job (~2 years), went from $10/h to $16/h to $25/h at another (~4 years). I wouldn't say it's common, and the only reason I got those raises was because I was insistent on the fact that I was underpaid for what work I was doing. But it does happen, so "No company will give someone a ~50% raise even if they've earned it" is not entirely true. – Chris Cirefice Dec 17 '18 at 17:43
  • @chriscirefice - was this one raise or several raises? Good companies make sure good employees get bonuses and raises each year. – sevensevens Dec 17 '18 at 18:02
  • Several (3 in total), each one being slightly more than a 50% increase in hourly rate. For the first job ($10/h --> $16/h), I did receive regular raises but they were only to keep up with inflation. It was after I started doing programming work in a non-programming position that improved efficiency of the office by about 80% that I asked for a more significant jump and got it. The second job, there were only those 2 raises over 4 years and no minor bumps in between. – Chris Cirefice Dec 17 '18 at 18:04
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    @chriscirefice - hope you are still with the company. Most companies, the running joke is the only way to get a raise is to get a new job. – sevensevens Dec 17 '18 at 18:08
  • I am, but incidentally now that I'm freelance with them instead of salaried I need to ask for another raise... of about 50%. Wish me luck in my negotiations ;) if not I agree with you, the usual process is to find a new job (or client) that will pay the right amount. – Chris Cirefice Dec 17 '18 at 18:10
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To go from 40.000 to 60.000 is a +50% increase on your salary. Even though you may be being underpaid it is highly unlikely a company is going to increase your pay by that much unless you're extremely valuable (and I mean extremely). Your colleagues may have less experience but may do the job better? Are you certain you are better at the job than them?

One thing to mention: I would use your maternity leave as time to look for a new job. It's unlikely you're going to get the raise you want. If your skills and experience are up to the pay grade you're expecting then you'll have no issue negotiating this elsewhere.

Approach: To approach this I recommend talking to your employer and asking for a meeting to talk about a raise.

Gather hard evidence on why you think you're being underpaid and mentioning colleagues pay (do not say who or be exact). Suggest a number that you'd be happy with and negotiate from there. You must have evidence on why you think you're being underpaid and why they should pay you more in comparison to your colleague.

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    Good answer in general, one point that is missing imo is that OP should be prepared to walk. 50% increases within the same organization are hard to come by relatively and its very likely they may have to seek employment elsewhere to achieve this. – Leon Dec 17 '18 at 15:16
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There are good answers here, but they all neglect the fact that OP works for a Big4.

Big4 in Europe tend to be very hierarchical and have very clear salary ranges for grades, especially the more junior ones. Salary negotiation is only possible to a very limited degree.

These are huge companies and if you google it, you are bound to find the current ranges.

If you don't - or if you do and discover you are paid less than you should -, I would start going to the HR and clarifying that. Maybe your grade is lower than your colleagues although you have more experience? Don't refer to your coworkers' salaries at all. Just inquire about your grade, promotion opportunities and salary ranges.

If this doesn't work, you shouldn't have problems switching from one Big4 to another. Plenty of my friends have done that and sometimes got a 50% rise in the process.

  • This answer seems a bit inconsistent - saying the Big4 have very clear ranges, then saying friends have gotten 50% increases by switching to another Big4. Does not compute. – bytepusher Dec 18 '18 at 22:31
  • @bytepusher. No, you simply misunderstood it. When you change to another Big4 you normally get into a higher grade, sometimes you even skip a level. Otherwise, nobody would have the motivation to switch, would they? (Not to mention I never wrote the ranges for all Big4 companies are the same - but that's minor compared to my first point). – BigMadAndy Dec 19 '18 at 5:19
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The usual solution in this case is to look for a job elsewhere. Assuming your legal status in the UK allows this(the BRexit may make a search more complicated for a non-brit).

Even if you don't intend to leave your current company, this is a step that will give you a clue about your value on the market. You might learn that you are underpaid compared to the maket...or not. It's a key feature in any negociation to come. Your colleauge's pay are not really relevant in the situation. What is relevant is how much you can hope on the local market.

That being said, the odds for your current company to make a counter-offer are low. Not negligible, it's been seen, but it's rather uncommon. Especially with a 50% increase asked.

Of course, all this is not possible while you're on maternity leave. You need this event to be part of your past to be in position of strength to negotiate, be it with your current company, or with others.

  • Counter-offers are a bad idea to accept. You will be marked for the rest of the time you are in that company, and first in line during layoffs. – Juha Untinen Dec 18 '18 at 9:55
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Moving on is the easiest option. When you are looking for a new job refrain from saying what your current salary is (most recruiters try to preasure you but you don' t have to provide this information and if they push on, them maybe that is a sign ... do you want to work there?), you can answer with your expected salary. (There are some really good books and other resources on negotiation techniques, check them out)

Also worth talking to a solicitor on the legality of you salary being so much lower than your collegues. Many solicitors provide free legal aid in potential discrimination cases, at least as a consult. Big corps know what is legal, it is only suitable for you to know that as well.

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