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Home | Got a Minute | Pay and remuneration | No. 37 – My boss keeps denying me a pay rise. What can I do?

No. 37 – My boss keeps denying me a pay rise. What can I do?

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10 November 2021

I work for a boatbuilder and haven’t had a wage rise in many years. I bring home under $1000 a week, less when I’m on holidays or sick. I’ve asked my boss numerous times for a pay rise but am met with blunt refusal. I’ve phoned the Fair Work Commission and my hourly rate is (incredibly) a little above the award and there is no enterprise agreement in place. I am highly skilled, experienced and no one else in the factory can do all the jobs I take on. I’m completely fed up. I’m sick of being “grateful” for having a job in the industry I love working in. What can I do?

I can hear how frustrated you are. While your employer is entitled to refuse you a pay rise, organisations that truly value their people only deny raises in exceptional circumstances such as when the business is experiencing significant financial distress. Outside of that, leaders should ensure their employees are being paid fairly and, at a minimum, consider CPI rate increases, before taking an increased profit home themselves.

Given you are highly skilled, I can only imagine that your skills are in demand – if not from your current employer (as reflected in how much they are prepared to pay you) then perhaps from somewhere else. I’m not sure how big the boatbuilding industry is where you’re located but is there a way for you to investigate working with another employer? I know you want to stay in the industry but if you were prepared to think about changing, there may be aligned industries, or even quite different sectors, that desperately need the skills you have and will be prepared to pay you for them.

In terms of your current boss, it sounds like they think it’s reasonable to refuse you a pay rise for years on end but I would try to speak with them once again. Try to explain your financial situation and ask them what they need to see from you to give a raise. Until you have another role confirmed, don’t burn any bridges but I think once you’re able to move on, seize the chance to work for an employer who will value and respect your contribution.

My company is undergoing a restructure and my beloved team was dismantled. The horrible way they handled this has left many people feeling confused, disappointed, and hopeless. We are still not clear what our roles will be, or frankly whether we will have a role after weeks of waiting. On one hand, I feel like I should hang in there and wait and see. On the other hand, I am desperate to get out of this dreadful situation. What should I do?

I have never understood how so many leaders can be such dreadful communicators. Surely it’s not that much to expect that if you are leading a team of people, especially during a period of immense change, that you need to communicate transparently, clearly and regularly.

It sounds like what is missing from your work is information. If you understood more about what the future holds, you would be able to weigh up whether you feel you have a future with your company or not.

Are you able to speak with your manager or someone you trust in the company to share how you feel? If it has been some time and you are weighing up whether to leave or not, asking for some clarity may just be the prompt they need to spur into action. You could also let them know that others might be feeling the same way and may end up leaving as well if the vacuum of information is not filled soon.

I am applying for a professional job and have a degree, but I only just scraped through my exams, so my academic record isn’t great. Some people have told me that employers are only interested to see the degree and aren’t interested in the academic record when considering applicants. Is that correct or will I have to produce my academic record?

You will be relieved to know that all that matters in virtually any job application is the qualification itself, not the scores you received in individual subjects. You have the degree, which is fabulous, so you can now stop worrying about how you went in the individual exams. Leave it all behind you!

The only time in my entire career I have ever needed to dust off my academic record is when I have been applying to do another university degree and even then, it was my grade point average that was of most interest and not whether I passed that compulsory science subject in first year university (phew!). So rest easy and congratulations on gaining your degree.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

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