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Basically the title says everything. I came from a very low ranked university outside the UK (Africa). During my PHD, I worked as a part time lecturer at another University in my home country for 1 year and I have a lot of experience in supervising and a very good research background with good publication output (7 papers in moderate journals).

I say this first because it had a lot with how I handled my salary negotiation: 1) I received a feedback that I need to start on higher quality journals (at least Impact factor 4 or more). The best journal I published in was IF 1.1 and that phd students in that new university could easily get a journal with IF 3. This clearly hit my self confidence and I know it does because I am a bit nervous although EVERYONE in my new team are really really satisfied with my current progress and results. 2) The second issue is that I read everyone that postdoc salary are simply not negotiable. A recently graduated PHD will start at the lowest scale point.

So during the meeting with HR officer, she basically asked if I am working right now and I simply replied "no" and she said "Ok, you don't have experience so you will start with this" and quickly moved to other things. I was nervous to bring the issue so I just went a long with it. Now, 5 months later in my postdoc, I know that my PI is really good at bringing money and he has a lot of project working on. So money is not an issue. I recently learned that the project I'm working on had a higher budget allocated to the researcher to be recruited (and that's me) but I started at the lowest pay scale. I really think I deserve more but I really don't know if I should bring this or maybe I missed my chance.

I still have one probation meeting where I will talk to the PI. What do you think? Is this too late? If you think I could try, how can I approach the situation with the PI? At first, I knew that I can't justify why I need more because I come from another country, so I decided to wait and let them see how I work to bring it.

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  • See academia.stackexchange.com/questions/111737/… for the UK.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 8, 2021 at 22:24
  • Thank you, but my question is about asking for a salary increase during my probation period rather than a salary negotiation after an offer is made.
    – userte
    Dec 8, 2021 at 22:37
  • "postdoc salary are simply not negotiable" This is not true, but you must negotiate with knowledge of the local system. Dec 9, 2021 at 14:03

2 Answers 2

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Almost all postdocs in the UK will get a 1 pay scale point increase each year more or less automatically. Most universities have a mechanism for awarding a two point increase in exceptional circumstances, where the individual has made an outstanding contribution (usually awarded for a specific achievement, rather than just doing well). Its almost unheard of for anyone to increase by more than 2 points at a time.

The other alternative is a promotion. If you believe that your duties don't match your job description, such can apply for a promotion from one grade to another (ie from grade 6 to grade 7, where grade 6 will be called something like research assistant and 7 something like research associate). Again, there is generally a formal process for this.

In both cases, there is almost certainly a specific time in the year when these processes happen. For example, for us promotion cases are submitted in August, and then go through various panel meetings in October (departmental), November (faculty/school) and December (university). Its unlikely an increase will be possible outside that time scale unless there was something written into your probation agreement, but it can't hurt to ask.

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I agree with everything in Ian's answer and would like to add a couple of things.

Reading your question, I notice you haven't actually given a reason for why you think you deserve a salary increase:

  • (Note that "I could use the money" is not a good reason; we all could.)
  • (Also "Supervisor is good at bringing in money and has a lot of funded projects" is not a good reason; unless you are planning to reapply and switch to a position in one of the other projects)
  • You say that your postdoc is progressing well; again this is the expected turn of events, and the reason you were offered the position following the interview (if they expected you would not do well in the position, you would not have been offered it).
  • Your past working experience in Academia is "1 year as a part-time lecturer". So less than 1 full-time year; and also it seems in teaching rather than research, so not directly relevant to a research-oriented postdoc position.

You might have better reasons than the ones you outlined in the question which we don't know about. That said, I would condition Ian's suggestion that "It can't hurt to ask" on having solid, specific reasons why you deserve a bump up the pay spine. These usually have to do with demonstrating research independence. Typically this refers to time spent in research positions, but the duties and responsibilities you hold can serve this purpose too.

I would also suggest you consider a couple of other points:

  • Climbing up the pay spine and skipping over a point on the pay scale is typically much easier when finishing up a contract and switching to your next position, either at the same University or a different one.
  • If your supervisor indeed has a generous budget for this and other projects (and maybe a small discretionary budget of his own if he is so good at bringing in money), consider other ways you could benefit from his budget. Consider whether your research and professional development would benefit from e.g. new equipment, books, or attending events (still virtual for the most part but I live in hope that we will one day be encouraged to meet people again).
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  • I agree with both answers. The only reason I mentioned those points is to say that I work hard, but like you said working hard is not enough. I need to demonstrate specifically why I need an increase and using only arguments that relate to research oriented postdocs.
    – userte
    Dec 10, 2021 at 11:23

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