8 Ways to Know if You’re Being Underpaid at Work 

underpaid at work

You close up your laptop, it’s late at night, and you are exhausted – again, and all you can think about is, “Is this really worth it”? Feeling undervalued and underpaid is demoralizing and impacts your well-being and happiness. 

Sometimes the problem isn’t a low paycheck – rather, you are just fed up with the work routine or colleagues. And it’s simply time to find a different job or start a remote business

Is it possible that you’re being underpaid? Here are 8 ways to find out and deal with the problem! 

8 Signs You’re Being Underpaid at Work

1. The industry average for your job role is more than your salary

This is probably the most common way people come to realize that they are underpaid; they come across a job advert for a similar role, and the pay is better than they currently receive. You can do your own research here, look at Glassdoor, search for industry salary surveys, or just trawl through job boards.

2. You constantly have new tasks and responsibilities, but your salary remains the same

While your tasks, obligations, and duties pile up, your salary remains steady and immutable. So, even when you have to give feedback, you aren’t in the position of telling others what to do and end up completing the job yourself. 

3. You can cover other colleagues’ tasks

If one of your team members is sick, you can cover their tasks to keep the project running. But the others (with the same salary) cannot do your tasks because they don’t have the right skills. 

As a result, you have to cover their tasks anytime they have a problem. And, you have to arrange your time to keep up with your and their tasks. 

4. You haven’t asked for a raise 

As simple as it sounds, if you haven’t asked for a raise, then you may not have been given one. While a good company will reward you for hard work, in the current climate, many are pinching pennies and saving costs where they can – which might be at your expense.

5. Recent hires receive higher compensation or raise

You have been in the company for a while, proving your commitment and effort for the team. Now the company started recruiting, and you know they are offering more than your current salary to new starters. 

6. In your team, you are the expert

Whether it’s because you’ve been there the longest or you’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way, you’re the one that people come to with their questions. Are you being properly remunerated for your expertise?

7. You can’t take a day off

Does your phone ring every time you take a vacation day or over the holidays? That’s a sign you’re indispensable (or that your team is understaffed).  Remember that being underpaid isn’t just a question of money; there’s a value to be placed on work/life balance and being able to take some real time off.

8. The company is increasing profit because of your work – without telling you

If your work is increasing leads for your company, and your manager ‘forgets’ to mention it to you (or your colleagues in the same position, for that matter), that’s a sign that you’re not getting the credit or commission, you deserve.

9. Your manager keeps mentioning a raise for your improvements, but it never happens

Your manager keeps mentioning a raise if you show improvements and commitment during the year. Yet, the conversation just doesn’t happen anymore at the end of the year. The New Year starts, but your salary is still the same. Suddenly, a possible raise comes into the conversation again – of course, for the following year! 

10. Your working day never ends

If you work out of the clock, and none is paying you for those extra hours,  you are being underpaid. 

11. They let people go, but the work hasn’t reduced

A common experience during the pandemic was companies cutting staff numbers as work levels reduced – but now they are picking back up again, and those people haven’t been replaced.

12. Colleagues are Leaving

If your colleagues are starting to look elsewhere, it’s a sign that the grass is greener somewhere else, but it can also put you in a stronger bargaining position as you hold knowledge and experience that new hires won’t.

How to Deal with Being Underpaid

Establish the Facts

First, do a little research to make sure you are underpaid. Do some job market research and find out the average salary and benefits in your area – Glassdoor and PayScale are two valuable indicators to start your research. However, remember to match the salary with your local living costs if you are working in a remote team. 

After that, you should talk with a trusted colleague to confirm your findings and go to the HR department. Each company is different, and you might have to follow a strict procedure to complain about underpaying or ask for a raise. 

Book A Call With Your Manager 

Once you can make your case,  book a call with your manager. If your company has a defined procedure, you will have to follow that, for example, writing a formal letter or e-mail to arrange a meeting. If not, you should mention the reason for the meeting in the invitation email and include the reasons why you feel underpaid and your willingness to discuss the issue. 

Pro Tips: How to tell your boss you want a raise? 

At the meeting, make the case for your pay increase. Discuss the positive impact you have had on the team, for example, where you have completed projects or helped colleagues out. Make a note of training courses completed etc., to build a picture of your accomplishments. You want to make your manager realize you are worth more and that it would cost them more to replace you!

Look Elsewhere 

While contacting your manager, you might also want to prepare your CV so you can apply for other roles. According to ADP Research Institute, most US workers get an average of 5.8% raise by changing job positions, so if the chat with your boss doesn’t go the way you hoped, you can always consider looking elsewhere.

You could also apply for a part-time position, telling your manager that you are taking another job to cope with the lack of salary. If you have another opportunity in your hands, you will have more power during the negotiation process – also considering how much the company will spend in time and resources by hiring someone else. 

FAQs About Being Underpaid At Work  

Am I Being Underpaid? Things To Consider Before Giving An Answer 

When you ask yourself, ‘am I getting paid enough,’ you should consider a few things. After all, ‘enough’ doesn’t necessarily mean more money. 

For example, you just started a new remote job as a content writer. Although you have great research and writing skills, as a brand new team member, you lack practical experience. Initially, you earn less than the average salary, but you get training and courses to improve your lacking skills. In this case, you are not being underpaid at work. The skills you will acquire at the end of the year will bring value to your professional figure – before bringing benefits to the company. 

Salary is just one of the things to consider when looking at compensation packages. Sometimes, lower pay comes with better health care, benefits package, meal vouchers, travel refunds, and career opportunities. In this case, you end up using less money from your salary – unlike those with higher pay and no company perks. Finally, remember your coworkers. Sometimes, it’s better to have a smaller paycheck with great colleagues and a flexible work schedule – than to deal with toxic people

How do I check my rights if I’m underpaid at work?

Usually, employers must respect a national minimum wage with their employees. In 2009, the US Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set the federal minimum wage at $7.25/hour and $2.13/hour for tipped workers. Wage increases are due to hit the public sector as well. And in January 2022, President Joe Biden raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour. Check your local law about minimum wage. The 29 states and D.C. have different statewide minimum wages and legal requirements. 

Fight for your paid overtime 

According to the US Department of Labor, the workweek is 40 hours, and employees are entitled to at least one-and-a-half times the hourly wage for overtime. The law about extra hours is quite strict. However, executive, administrative or professional roles are exempt from overtime. And those who earn at least $35,568/year or $107,432/year (highly compensated employees) are also exempt. 

Overwork employee rights: Employees vs. independent contractors 

When it comes to tax regulation for remote workers, independent contractors, or 1099, you might be eligible for overtime and benefits. According to the IRS, an independent contractor controls what will be done and how it will be done. And the clients review the final product. However, if you are using the company equipment, work under the company brand, or regularly report to a manager, you are almost an employee. Especially if you receive tasks that you can’t refuse or someone evaluates your process, you might be entitled to overtime and benefits.

How to report being underpaid at work 

The first step is looking for an online complaint form or guidance on your state labor website. In these cases, the best option is to seek legal counseling. For example, the FLSA has an anti-retaliation provision for those who are underpaid at work. And it’s in the company’s interest to quickly settle these types of legal issues. Finally, you can sue a company for underpaying, salary under the minimum wage, or unpaid overtime. However, it’s always better to check with a professional lawyer what you can do and the right legal process. 

Last Thoughts About Being Underpaid at Work 

Making sure you have not been underpaid at work is your right, and you should fight for it. However, you always have to analyze your individual case. 

As we said, sometimes what you earn isn’t money. And in some cases, the problem is that you are just fed up with the job. Just remember that besides salary, other factors determine if your job is worth it or not. You should close your laptop satisfied and feel happy with your team members and the company you work for. If this is not the case, it’s time to consider changing your job! 

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