Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Majority of workers 'underpaid,' expect employers to help ease cost of living

- More than half of the workforce feel they are underpaid as huge support has emerged for employers to intervene to ease the cost of living crisis.

  • Over half of Brits (52%) believe they are currently underpaid
  • Healthcare, hospitality & leisure and legal workers most likely to feel underpaid  
  • One in five (22%) have either asked for a raise or applied for a new job to help cope
  • Pay rise gender disparity exists - 38% of women were not offered a raise when asking for one vs only 29% of men

More than half of the workforce feel they are underpaid as huge support has emerged for employers to intervene to ease the cost of living crisis, according to a new report by the leading hiring platform Indeed.

With inflation at a 40-year high and fears that rising interest rates could spiral, a new YouGov survey conducted for Indeed’s Future of Compensation report reveals that over half (52%) of working Brits don’t think they are paid enough currently. 

The survey of 2,500 workers found that staff within the health and medical industry are most likely to feel underpaid (64%) - even after a 3% pay rise for NHS staff was announced in July - followed by those in hospitality & leisure (61%) and legal (58%). 

One in 10 respondents (9%) working in finance said they are paid “too much” - the highest of any sector.

To support themselves, 13% have asked for a pay rise and 9% have applied for a new job. Of those who asked for a pay rise as a consequence of the real earnings squeeze, 61% either received less than they requested or no raise at all. Men were more likely to be offered a pay rise than women: 38% of women were not offered a raise when asking for one vs only 29% of men.

Young feeling pinch the hardest

The findings indicate that 25–39-year-olds - typically those with young families and in earlier stages of their careers with less savings - are feeling the pressure most of all, with 20% asking for a raise and 17% looking for new employment to support them through the crisis.

53% of respondents said they would like to see bonuses included in their benefits packages. Only 31% say they are currently offered bonuses within their benefits package. 41% and 38% interested in additional holiday days and private medical insurance respectively, also indicating a desire for varied benefits packages.

The research also found that 76% believe that their employer should provide some level of support to staff to help them manage the crisis. So far, the most common responses from organisations have been to offer more flexible work to reduce commuting costs (33%) and pay rises (30%) followed by bonuses (17%) and money management advice (17%).

Matt Burney, Senior Talent Strategy Advisor at the leading hiring platform Indeed, said: 

“While the world of work may have changed dramatically since the pandemic, pay remains the most important driver for workers, yet our report shows that many workers feel underpaid. This perception could worsen as high inflation continues to eat into people’s earnings and as the macro-economic situation appears less certain.

“Against this backdrop many workers are looking to their employers for support to help weather the gloomy outlook but bosses can only go so far with pay before needing to reach for other levers in a bid to attract and retain workers. This becomes increasingly difficult in what is the tightest labour market on record, one where jobseekers continue to hold most of the cards.

“Encouragingly for workers, we see signs that employers are responding to these challenges by offering a range of support from increased flexibility, overtime, vouchers and financial advice to increases in pay and benefits. With no end in sight for the rising cost of living, employers will need to carefully navigate financial viability with pay and support packages that balance fiscal and recruitment challenges over the months to come.”

Additional findings also show:

The North / South divide still exists, with 41% of respondents in London and south of England saying the London weighting in salaries should remain vs only 28% in the rest of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

The size of business also appears to influence the viewpoint on the London weighting. A third of micro-businesses (33%), those with 2-9 employees, think organisations should scrap it, while 44% of medium-sized organisations (which have 50-249 staff) say it should go.

Business size also appears to impact whether staff feel underpaid. Almost two thirds (65%) of employees at micro-businesses (those with 2-9 employees) saying they’re not paid enough. 34% asked for but were declined a pay rise. As a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis, 29% secured new jobs, with 45% receiving counter offers to try to persuade them to stay - indicating that they are reacting rather than proactively looking to retain talent.

  • Britons believe that a household salary of £75,000 and over to be classed as rich (54%), increasing to 79% for those on more than £100,000
  • 65% of respondents in Wales who asked for a pay rise due to the cost-of-living crisis were not offered one, followed by East England with 44%
  • 20% of businesses will not be providing support to their employees to manage the crisis
  • 12% of women have been forced into additional employment on top of their main job as a consequence
  • 37% of non-cisgender people have had to do the same, rising to 58% among the trans community