Recent research conducted by HR software provider Ciphr has shed light on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on UK employees, particularly highlighting a significant gender disparity when it comes to salary negotiation.

The study found that despite being equally affected by rising living costs, women were less likely than men to have requested a salary increase this year.

The survey, which polled 1,000 individuals last month, revealed that only one in four (26%) women had asked for a pay rise, compared to one in three (36%) men.

The trend extended to other aspects of salary negotiation as well, with women being less likely to ask for a cost-of-living bonus (7% vs. 14% of men), a promotion (17% vs. 22%), or additional employee benefits to supplement their income (11% vs. 16%).

Interestingly, female employees were found to be more likely to express financial struggles and dissatisfaction with their wages.

They were the most likely to report being unable to afford sick leave (55% vs. 47%), feeling overwhelmed by money-related stress (80% vs. 70%), and believing they were not being paid enough (38% vs. 32%).

Less than half feel accurately rewarded

The data also showed that less than half of the women surveyed felt adequately rewarded for their skills and experience (45%) or the responsibilities they held in their roles (44%). In contrast, half of the male respondents believed their salaries adequately reflected their skills and experience (49%), and 51 percent thought it was reflective of their current roles and responsibilities.

An intriguing finding emerged when comparing how discontented men and women acted on their salary perceptions. Nearly half (48%) of men who were unhappy with their pay due to mismatched skills, job knowledge, or position had asked for a raise recently.

On the other hand, only a third (32%) of women in a similar situation had requested a pay rise. This revealed a noticeable gender ‘ask gap,’ where women were more hesitant to negotiate higher salaries compared to their male counterparts, potentially exacerbating existing pay gaps in various organisations.

What are the benefits of salary negotiation?

Previous research by Ciphr has highlighted the benefits of salary negotiation, as those who proactively sought higher earnings were more likely to be granted a pay rise. With fewer women asking for pay raises, it is reasonable to infer that more men may have received pay increases recently, potentially leading to a widening of the gender pay gap and further negatively impacting women during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey continue to show a substantial gender pay gap in the UK, with women earning 84p for every pound earned by men. While this represents a slight improvement from the previous year (16% vs. 17.4% in 2022), Ciphr’s analysis of the data indicates that women’s hourly pay still lags behind men’s in nearly every industry, with the private sector experiencing a larger pay gap compared to the public sector (18% vs. 13.8%).

Underpaid women: how can we close the gender pay gap?

Closing the gender pay gap requires concerted efforts from employers to address salary discrepancies and ensure fair financial rewards for all employees based on their skills and contributions. Claire Williams, Chief People Officer at Ciphr, emphasises the importance of employers taking proactive steps to rectify the ‘ask gap’ and pay inequality.

Creating better representation of women and ethnic minorities at all levels is a crucial aspect of driving change and achieving pay equality, ultimately leading to the attraction and retention of the best talent in the long run. 





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.