How to negotiate for a salary increase

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Do you believe that you deserve a higher salary, but are afraid that you might risk your job if you raise this issue with management? To guide you through the negotiation process, we spoke to Johanette Rheeder, director and labour law specialist at JR attorneys & Labour Smart Training and she shared nine tips.

1.A salary increase is not a right in South African labour law. It is called an interest dispute; that’s why unions negotiate for increases.

2. Any employee who wants a raise, or feels that they’re earning too little, can join a union and bargain collectively for an annual increase. If you’re claiming individually, negotiate with your employer.

3. The best way to negotiate with your employer is to start with the line manager or supervisor. If you have their support, they can take it to the employer and negotiate on your behalf, or support you through the negotiation process with management.

4. Do not threaten your manager or employer. This often results in the manager not considering your request.

5. Do your homework. Make sure that you have a proper job description and content, and compare them with the market to determine whether you are earning lower than what it dictates. If you are on par, you’ll battle to convince your employer to increase your salary. However, a properly researched presentation, supported with market proof of your earnings being below what you should earn as well as proper reasons for a higher salary, may achieve positive results.

6. Avoid emotional reasons such as “I can’t afford to pay my debt” or “I want a better car”. Rather concentrate on objective reasons. Focus on your performance, output and contribution to the business.

7. If your performance is usually low, or you have a bad disciplinary record, you may struggle to convince your employer to increase your salary.

8. The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1996 provides for claims by employees relating to the provision of benefits. This is where the employer does not apply its discretion relating to benefits in a fair manner. This would be cases where the employee is unfairly excluded from benefits such as medical aid, pension and other policies.

9. The Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 allows for equal pay for equal value claims by employees. This act prohibits situations where employees earn different salaries but performing the same job, and the reasons for the differentiation is based on discrimination protected by the Constitution. Fair differentiation may be factors such as seniority, years of service, performance, responsibilities, but may not be on a discriminatory ground.

Employees should also remember that they may earn less than a comparable counterpart because of non-discriminatory factors justifiable by law.