Questions you’re afraid to ask HR about pay

Oct 28, 2021
min read

We get it – the topic of pay can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve spent the past month equipping you and your company with the information you need to tackle important conversations and tasks. But like any topic, you still had questions. Read on for your answers. 

1. One of my employees thinks they’re being paid unfairly. What should I do?

It’s not rare for employees to question the competitiveness and fairness of their compensation relative to others in similar roles at other companies. That sentence was a mouthful, huh? 

It’s possible the concern stems from lack of transparency and unreliable, employee-reported data online, in which case you may consider making some adjustments. We recommend conducting an annual pay audit to prevent and eliminate instances of illegal and unfair pay differences, and allow you to make necessary changes. 

In a previous blog, we covered the benefits of pay bands and how they can help override possible disparities and give employees a solid understanding of pay differences between themselves and employees in similar roles. Check it out to see if your company’s compensation strategy could benefit. 

2. How frequently should my company be formally reviewing compensation?

Ideally, you should be conducting a pay audit annually. But if your organization has made a number of changes to jobs or is focused on attracting and retaining top talent, you might consider reviewing compensation more frequently. 

A competitive compensation strategy is one that is in line with the market at all times. An equitable compensation strategy is based on an employee’s gender, race, ability, and background.

3. What should my company do if we find our pay isn't in line with the market?

At the end of the day, your decision to make pay changes is dependent on your pay philosophy and your ability to make those changes. 

However, if you conduct an audit and find illegal disparities influenced by an employee's gender, race, ability, and background, those changes must be made immediately. In Ontario, the province’s Human Rights Code protects workers from employment discrimination due to “race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, age, marital status, family status and record of offences.” If an employee believes their difference in rate is related to any of these discriminatory factors, they have the right to contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and take legal action. 

4. I think I deserve a raise. How do I go about having the conversation with my manager?

If you want a higher income, it’s important to know how to ask for one. Luckily, we have a few tips to help you drive that conversation.

Research salary trends 

Find out what the market value is for your role by researching what the average salary is for your job title in your region. Consider this in relation to your years of experience, company seniority, specialized skills, level of education, and accomplishments in your role. 

Ask at an appropriate time 

Timing is everything. If you’re thinking of asking for upped compensation, consider the financial health of your company and the time of year. Is your company actively scaling? Are performance reviews coming up anyways? Is your manager focused on other things right now? Have you recently reached an impressive milestone or exceeded an important goal? Depending on your answers to these questions, it might not be the right time. 

Prepare what to say

Before booking a meeting with your manager, know what you’re going to say. Writing and practicing a script is one way to feel more confident. Focus on the professional reasons why you deserve a raise and be specific. Tell them the salary you’d like and cite your research and examples of your work that justify the raise. 

Thank them 

Regardless of how the conversation goes, be sure to thank your manager for their time. Send them a follow-up email with a summary of your conversation and a review of your reasons for asking for a raise. If your manager rejects your request, this can serve as a record of the conversation. If you ask for a raise at a later date, you can go back and reference the email at any time. 

5. My co-worker asked how much I make, but I feel awkward talking about it. Should I tell them?

You could, or you could not. There are likely no rules preventing you from discussing pay with your colleagues. But does it feel wrong? Sure does. 

We explored this topic in a blog not too long ago, asking Humigos how comfortable they are when it comes to sharing or talking about their salary with co-workers. Not surprisingly, the majority of Humigos only discuss pay with coworkers they’re close to. Most also really value transparency, and feel more of it could make all the difference in talking about pay. 

While we didn’t uncover a clear answer, the bottom line is that your willingness to discuss pay is dependent on your comfort level with your co-workers and your company culture. If you’re up for it, have a conversation with your manager or HR lead about pay transparency to get an understanding of where your company stands on making this information more accessible. 

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