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Negotiating pay?

(24 Posts)
PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 17:27:19

Hi,

I've been offered a research post at a university, with a pay scale between 28K - 33K. I assume this means it starts at 28K. Would it be possible to negotiate so it starts at say 31K? Would this negotiation happen with the lead recruiter or HR? (Also would asking for a higher pay come across cheeky? It's just that the travelling costs are high)

Thanks

Comeonmommy Thu 12-Oct-17 17:44:14

I think they'd be more concerned if you didn't try it!!!

PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 17:46:47

@Comeonmommy Really?! Who do I approach, the academic who interviewed me or the people in HR?

PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 17:47:06

@Comeonmommy Thanks for replying btw smile

Comeonmommy Thu 12-Oct-17 18:20:31

I would ask the person who interviewed you. Have you accepted? If not I'd say you are really interested but there are travelling costs involved for you, I'd really appreciate it if you would consider my starting salary to be £31k. The worst they could say would be no, or they might say we can do £30,500 (figures are for example). Definitely got to ask - if you don't ask, you don't get!! Good luck honey xxx

PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 18:26:15

@Comeonmommy Thank you! I did kind of accept it on the phone, although I haven't received the formal offer email yet, so I haven't accepted it formally. Thanks, I think I will ask - I suppose there's no harm in asking, just don't want to come across greedy.

Marasme Thu 12-Oct-17 19:15:04

Best strategy is to liaise with HR regarding starting salary, with strong evidence of why you should not start at the bottom of the grade scale - what do you bring in that justify a mid-range salary (previous experience, great papers for the REF, kudos, etc).
Go back to them before accepting and ask them to discuss the starting salary and lay out what you would like and why you believe this is more appropriate than the bottom scale.

PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 19:22:40

@Marasme Thanks, that sounds like a good approach. I thought papers can't be transferred across institutions for the next REF?

user918273645 Thu 12-Oct-17 20:57:48

Beware that there may not be an option to pay you a higher salary, depending on how the position is funded.

The RCUK that funds my work only finances postdoctoral positions at the lowest points on the scale. To offer a PDRA more, I would need to find extra funding from the department. This just wouldn't be possible unless the PDRA agreed e.g. to do some unpaid teaching for the extra salary. (And even then it would be hard to get agreement for a salary rise instead of just paying for teaching in an ad hoc way.)

PeteMe Thu 12-Oct-17 21:02:59

@user918273645 Thanks for that insight, I will keep that in mind.

parietal Thu 12-Oct-17 21:08:14

If this is a postdoc job, there is probably a fixed pot of money on the grant, so more salary = less months of work available.

If it is a lectureship or other university funded position, there can be more scope.

All my pay negotiations so far have gone:
Do you want the job? Salary is X
Yes but life in London is v expensive
Ok, have 1 more pay increment
Ok great.

And that’s it. All negotiated with the person who made the offer.

I know some people who negotiate much harder, esp at prof level. But I’m too much of a whimp.

user918273645 Thu 12-Oct-17 21:14:06

If this is a postdoc job, there is probably a fixed pot of money on the grant, so more salary = less months of work available.

But with research councils the grants usually insist on a certain amount of months PDRA being delivered i.e. you can't pay the PDRA more and have them work less months.

One should definitely negotiate for positions paid by the university, for which flexibility is always possible.

ManInTheMoonMarigold Thu 12-Oct-17 22:07:11

If a job is advertised with a salary range, unless it says that the appointment will be made at the bottom of the scale "except in exceptional circumstances" (which you see with some project-funded post doc jobs), I would assume that the institution has the money to pay at the top of the range if they think it is appropriate.

I work at a Russell Group uni, and the figures you give split across salary bands, so it may be that the lower end is for people who are PhD-pending. We wouldn't appoint someone without a PhD higher than that (unless they had lots of other experience), but would make a commitment that they would automatically move up as soon as they received their PhD. We would be unlikely to appoint lower if someone already had a PhD.

If you want to negotiate, you need to give a reason why you are worth more. I don't think your travel costs would be considered a good reason unless you are working in London. Good reasons are generally related to your previous experience and what you would bring to the institution.

It can be useful to look at the role description for the grade above and note the parts you are already meeting, e.g. publications, research funding, and use that to argue that you should be nearer to that grade, i.e. nearer the top of the advertised grade.

There has been no final decision on portability at the moment, so if you have good REF-able publications that can be a good basis for negotiation.

sammySammyA Fri 13-Oct-17 06:37:37

Echoing what someone above said, (but oddly not everyone)...

From the salary range this looks to me likely to be an RA position funded externally. This means they will have a fixed pot of money and be extremely limited in their negotiating capability. The majority of such positions are costed at the bottom of the pay scale, because they make us, and reviewers comment on requesting higher pay scales without a very good justification (which is hard to give if you don't have a named person). For some reason HR always insist on adding in the scale even if they know the recruiter can't afford it. It's very annoying and unhelpful.

Certainly do negotiate, everybody does, but if they say they have limited scope to further increases I'd believe them. Even a 1 point increase is really me saying "I'll find some money from elsewhere to cover this" and then me having to do a whole load of work to find that money. (i.e. go begging to HoS/cross funding with another grant).

MaverickSnoopy Fri 13-Oct-17 07:14:11

@sammySammyA the reason HR make you advertise the whole scale is in case the person appointed needs a tier 2 visa. UKBA need evidence of the salary band advertised and will not issue a visa without this evidence. So if you had someone amazing come along who needed a visa and you hadn't advertised this, then you'd need to readvertise.

OP, I used to work in Oxbridge academic HR (and I and used to look after research grants). We used to cost grant applications at 7.3 as standard, in fact I think it was probably 7.4 by the time I left. The PI always justified it well.

Generally speaking we started people off at 7.1 if they were waiting for their PhD and would negotiate with those who did have their PhD. People would sometimes come to me and sometimes the PI. I would always discuss with the PI.

If the postdoc wanted more than we could afford then there were 2 options (depending on circumstances). 1) get them to do some teaching and fund the extra from the dept or 2) put them on a shorter contract and condense the money. Generally speaking when we did this, the PI would be able to transfer them over to other funding (a secondary project) at the end of the term. However, this depends on whether they have any other funding and if the project is suitable.

I would go straight to the PI. Give some reasons why you believe you should have more money. Will you have any relocation costs? If so then ask whether they have a a relocation scheme as these can cover removal costs and travel costs...but make sure you check out that t&cs as they have specific rules.

MaverickSnoopy Fri 13-Oct-17 07:18:22

I should add that parity was always an important factor. HR want to try and keep people with the same skills around the same area. So I would always flag if it looked like a PI was about to appoint at 7.5 and someone with more skills was on 7.3. Not to say that they wouldn't still offer at 7.5 but it's important to have an awareness and to try and keep a balance across a department.

HouseholdWords Fri 13-Oct-17 08:00:36

As others say, if you want more than the entry level salary, you'll need to show why you are not entry level, IYSWIM.

High travel costs won't cut it - that's a personal expense due to your personal decisions about where you live and where you work.

That said, I once turned down a job because it was in London and really they couldn't pay me enough to compensate for the loss of lifestyle I'd have experienced by moving to London.

user918273645 Fri 13-Oct-17 08:30:49

Maverick: I believe you are out of date. RCUK (at least the ones that fund me) no longer fund PDRAs at the middle of the spine points unless strong justifications have been made for the necessity of hiring an experienced postdoc to deliver the grant objectives. This is a way for RCUK to save money.

It is indeed the case that the lower salary points do not allow people with tier 2 visas to be appointed. In effect, we are now being excluded from hiring from the full international pool of applicants.

MaverickSnoopy Fri 13-Oct-17 10:34:58

I may well be out of date - I left two years ago and work in a completely different field now. We used to deal with EPSRC and ERC a lot and while strong justifications were needed, we always got the funding.

geekaMaxima Fri 13-Oct-17 10:55:18

RCUK (at least the ones that fund me) no longer fund PDRAs at the middle of the spine points unless strong justifications have been made for the necessity of hiring an experienced postdoc to deliver the grant objectives.

Yup, but in my field at least it's not that difficult to argue strongly for an experienced postdoc. I detail at length in the Justification for Resources why all the necessary skills, familiarity with technique X or equipment Y, etc. are likely to be found only in someone with significant postdoctoral experience. It's been fine.

OP, in my (past and current) institutions, all RA pay negotiations are done with the person who offers the job, typically the PI. HR aren't involved at all in pay matters other than issuing the contract at the agreed spine point. The usual rate of pay in my field is lowest point for someone fresh from PhD (or nearly done, such as submitted and awaiting viva), then one extra point for each year of postdoc experience. Unusual circumstances (coming from outside UK with higher salary, relevant industrial experience, etc.) might get another point. High travel costs might cut it as well, if they were genuinely required (e.g., choosing to take a job 100 miles from where you live is a personal decision but not one I'd give extra salary for; a job that required split-site commuting would, though).

For the right candidate, I always try to appoint as high up the salary scale as the grant can afford, but I do have to be able to justify it to HR and sometimes the funder as well.

user918273645 Fri 13-Oct-17 11:17:10

Yes, I agree that discussions about pay take place with academics, not with HR in all institutions I have been in.

I have also never heard of somebody from HR querying decisions about pay scales. I would wonder how somebody from HR without an academic background could judge the issue below:

HR want to try and keep people with the same skills around the same area.

(And BTW such parity is certainly not applied at permanent academic level, even if HR believe it is. In reality, retention and recruitment deals often create wide disparity in pay amongst staff performing at similar levels.)

geekaMaxima Fri 13-Oct-17 12:35:23

I have also never heard of somebody from HR querying decisions about pay scales.

I've encountered this - I wanted to appoint a postdoc at a spine point 2 or 3 above what they were currently getting at a different university (which they had stated on their application form), and was asked why. I just said they had the appropriate skills/experience for the point I offered, and that was fine.

I got the feeling the HR person just wanted to be able to record that the salary was justified by reason X rather than be open to accusations of nepotism or something.

HouseholdWords Fri 13-Oct-17 14:03:47

And BTW such parity is certainly not applied at permanent academic level, even if HR believe it is. In reality, retention and recruitment deals often create wide disparity in pay amongst staff performing at similar levels.

Indeed. Which is why so many non-equal pay cases occur in academia. I'm trying to disentangle one now for a couple of female colleagues.

MaverickSnoopy Fri 13-Oct-17 14:37:28

HR want to try and keep people with the same skills around the same area.

I probably didn't word this very well. I meant that as a department we wanted to make sure that our researchers were being paid fairly, ie Jo Blogs with a wealth of experience was not being paid less than Jeff Blogs who had less experience/less skills in the area required. Parity was an issue cascaded by our Head of Department. So everything that I have said came straight from the HOD. They didn't want to get involved in a case by case basis and we would manage the recruitment along with the PI, advising on HOD guidance.

Agree that lectureship type posts and permanent post pay negotiations all work very differently.

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