Dealing with requests for a pay rise

How should pharmacy managers handle these delicate conversations?

It may come as no surprise that employment experts and psychologists suggest that employees are motivated – to a certain extent – by a rewarding salary.

This was highlighted in April, when the government introduced new legislation requiring all staff aged over 25 to be paid at least the National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour. This is 50p higher than the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for 21-24 year olds and £1.90 higher than the NMW rate employers are required to pay 18-20 year olds.
Many pharmacy staff will already be paid £7.20 per hour or more. But employees typically feel that they are not paid quite enough – and pharmacy is probably no exception in this regard.

So it’s almost inevitable that at some stage a pharmacy manager will have to deal with a request for a pay rise. How should you handle these situations, and what should you do if you are not in a position to increase an employee’s wages on the spot?

Proper procedures

“Employees like to see a clear route of pay progression and appreciate incentives and rewards for their hard work,” says Jennifer Ormond, partnerships team manager at Ellis Whittam – the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) employment law, HR, and health and safety services partner. “But there is no legal process to follow in considering requests for pay rises.”

She advises that the most important consideration is that “requests are dealt with fairly, to avoid discrimination or equal pay claims from employees”.

When answering queries about pay – particularly when a rise is not possible – Ms Ormond says managers should set a time for a formal meeting, prepare for the conversation, and consider the pharmacy’s economic position. This means you can “present factual details of the employee’s accomplishments, as well as why the pay rise may not be possible at this time”.

Clear communication

Honesty is always the best policy, according to Yvonne Tuckley, Numark’s learning and development manager. She also advises resisting the temptation to avoid the conversation altogether. “It’s easy to put people off by saying you’ll look into it and then not actually do anything. But you should address the issue whenever it arises,” she adds.

If you are not able to give someone a rise, Ms Tuckley says you should explain why. “If they know trade and [dispensing volume] are down they will understand, but if your pharmacy seems to be doing well then it’s more difficult to understand if you say times are tough.

"You need to strike a balance between explaining the situation clearly so they can understand and accept it – even if they don’t agree – and being held to ransom.”

"If you commit to reviewing an employee’s salary position at a later point in time, then stick to it," she adds.

Other incentives

Ms Ormond says she has seen an increase in pharmacies using “non-financial incentives” to “cushion the blow” if they cannot offer a pay rise. Examples include certificates of achievement, company-wide recognition, team days or nights out, vouchers and additional annual leave.

Ms Tuckley recommends getting feedback from your team when it comes to choosing alternative incentives. “Generally people like money, particularly at counter staff level, but you could say that the best performer gets to leave early on a Friday, for example." 

Take it to the top

Awarding pay increases may not be solely your decision, but you still need to handle the process transparently, Ms Tuckley says. “Don’t hide behind someone else as the decision maker. Even if it’s not down to you, if you feel your staff member is appropriately paid and you won’t support an increase, then you should tell them why and communicate to your line manager that this has happened.
“However, if you do think they deserve a rise, but it’s not your decision, don’t comment on whether they will get one because this can give false hope,” she warns.
Talking about money is often a difficult issue, but tackling the subject sensitively can ensure that your staff still feel appreciated at the end of the conversation.

How to handle the conversation: Top five tips for dealing with requests for pay rises

  1. Listen – do your employee the courtesy of listening to why they feel they deserve a raise
  2. Consider alternatives – if you can’t give a raise, think about what else you can offer
  3. Review – if you turn a request for a pay rise down, agree to review your decision at a set time in the future – and stick to the agreement
  4. Be realistic – if a valued member of staff threatens to resign, don’t be tempted to offer them more money to stay – unless you can afford to
  5. Keep things equal – the law requires that men and women, and part-time and full-time staff, in the same role are paid the same hourly rate or pro-rata salary for the same job.


What are your tips for conversations about pay?

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

Pay rates for our colleague technicians who are competent professionals in their own right are scandalously low! Even Aldi pays more for their checkout staff. Cleaners are usually paid £9+ per hour. I just don't know how we can address this but I am appalled. The argument that it would make a pharmacy unviable if normal manual labour rate of £13ph was paid is a complete lie by folks who try to pretend they are in a normal supermarket wage scenario. An average pharmacy should be able to clear £250k net profit a year easily.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Just do what the company I work for does: everyone knows they don't give pay rises so nobody asks! It's £7.20 take it or leave it. I don't approve of it, but even as manager I have no say.

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