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I had a meeting with HR last week. During the meeting, the recruitment officer talked about a lot of things very quickly in the first 5 meetings: "you will receive a formal offer in the next few days, since you don't have much experience you will salary will be 30k (lowest spine point for postdocs in the UK), and for the visa...."

So, I just focused about the visa because it was most important to me. Next, I received an email reiterating these points and I just said "I'm excited for the position", I couldn't bring the topic to the PI and I don't even know if I should..

But now, days later, I don't know how I feel about the salary. It's my first postdoc after my PhD (computer science), yes I don't have experience in the industry, but I have a lot of experience for a full-time phd student (for my home country) in teaching and supervising students. For my department, I assisted professors in teaching activities in 3 classes/semesters, supersized around 10 students and I was a jury member of many graduation projection presentations. I was even hired as a fixed-term lecturer at a another university for 2 semesters (where I design my course, supervised even more students and everything). I also reviewed papers in conferences and I was a member of the organizing committee of many and many conferences.. On tap of that, noticed that it's below the average salary in Glassdoor (34k)

I really feel that I deserve more, but I am afraid it's too late and the PI might have a bad impression about me.. Should I bring this up to the HR? if so how can I approach the situation?

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  • What is your last drawn salary? Think on those lines.
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 21 at 12:23
  • Research is not funded in my home country, and salaries per semester doesn't say much..
    – U. User
    Apr 21 at 12:32
  • Exactly!....how can you negotiate when the other party is fully aware of this?
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 21 at 12:52
  • Just to point out, 30k is basically bang on the UK median household income, and depending on where you are in the country (basically if you are not in London), would be considered a decent wage. You can compare it to PhD stipends in the UK which are around 15k per year tax free.
    – astronat
    Apr 21 at 17:01
  • @astronat OP’s level of professional training is much higher than the median, why should what you said be of any relevance to them?
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 22 at 2:43
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In the UK, it is not common for postdocs and entry-level lecturers to negotiate their salaries. This is different from the customs in the USA and some EU countries.

In the UK, the starting salary of a postdoc or a lecturer would normally be set up by HR in consultation with postdoc's PI or lecturer's HoD. As a postdoc, if you want a better offer, you have the following options:

  1. Provide additional evidence of your relevant experience. Note that an experience of course design and "helping professors with teaching" may not be considered relevant for a research-focused postdoc position. And even if you have relevant experience, it may not be considered sufficient by the PI or HR.
  2. Tell them that you can not accept the offer unless they raise it. This is a risky move, which can cost you an offer. Bear in mind that HRs are not really interested in hiring you, their goal is to ensure the hiring process goes smoothly and according to the rules. They may approve your claim, provided there is a budget for a raise and the PI/HoD supports it. Or they can send you a polite email starting from "We are sorry to hear that you declined our offer" and offer the job to the next candidate.

Before you proceed, note that if your postdoc salary comes from a grant, there may be a firm cap on how much the University can offer you from the limited grant budget. You may want to ask your PI if there is even any room for negotiation before discussing it with the HR.

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  • Just to add explicitly: each year of relevant experience translates to 1 spinal point. This is essentially "years working as a postdoc (or equivalent position) after PhD graduation" therefore fresh PhD graduates rarely have (m)any negotiation points.
    – penelope
    Apr 21 at 12:42
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    @U.User You will move up 1 spinal point per year until you reach the top of your grade. Exceptions are extremely rare. Apr 21 at 12:46
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    @U.User Just to clarify -- not getting a spinal point due to covid last year (uh, out of context this sounds so odd) is extremely exceptional and not even my colleagues that are in academic positions longer than me remember it happening ever before. It does not seem likely it will repeat soon. Final tidbit: there is usually a cut-off point for a spinal point increase. E.g.: increase usually happens with the start of the academic year, in September, and applies to everybody who started their contract in March of the current year or earlier, but not later (an Aug hire won't get a bump in Sep)
    – penelope
    Apr 21 at 14:19
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    The 1 point per year system is why you will be starting on less than the average salary for a postdoc - the average postdoc has been a postdoc for more than 0 years. Apr 21 at 21:29
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    Its also worth adding to the discussion of caps imposed by grants: almost all postdocs in universities in the UK are paid for from UK government grants. And when you apply for such a grant, you have to say how much you will pay the postdoc when you apply for the grant. Thats the bad news. The good news is that postdocs are usually not costed at the lowest point - this allows unis some leeway if the unions negotiate a bigger than average pay rise one year, or inflation gets high, for example. . Apr 21 at 21:32

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