From education to employment

Workers in North West most likely to be researching pay rises online

A recent study by HR and payroll software provider Ciphr found that more people living in the Midlands and North of England search online for information and advice about the cost-of-living crisis than anywhere else in the UK.

When it comes to researching the subject of pay rises, however, workers in the North West are the most prolific.

Ciphr analysed Google data for some of the most popular search queries in the UK around the subject of pay rises – such as ‘how to ask for a pay rise’, ‘salary increase calculator’, ‘wage rise 2022’, and ‘pay rise letter template’ (over 60 keywords in all) – to discover which UK towns and cities average the most searches per person.

According to the results, half of the top 10 towns and cities that generated the most pay rise related search queries (per 10,000 people) between July and September this year are located in the North West. When looking at the top 25 towns and cities, over a third (36%) are in the North West (and in the top 50, they make up just over a quarter of the list) – suggesting perhaps that workers in this region, above all others, may be less satisfied with their pay.

Notably, 90% of the top 10 towns and cities (and over two-thirds of the top 25) have lower-than-average full-time salaries.

The residents of Walsall in the West Midlands, for example, who are responsible for the most searches (102 per 10,000 people) for terms related to pay rises, earn an average of £548.20 a week, according to the latest annual earnings data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is well below the UK’s national average of £611 a week for full-time workers, while the UK’s average hourly rate is £15.65.

The top 25 towns and cities with the largest number of Google searches around pay rises per 10,000 people, ranked from highest to lowest number of searches over the past three months (July-September 2022), are:

The top five cities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales where people are most likely to have been looking up content relating to pay rises are Derry, Aberdeen, Swansea, Newport and Dundee (Derry ranked highest with 49 searches per 10,000 people, while Dundee had 41 searches per 10,000 people).

The UK towns and cities with the least number of searches per 10,000 people were London (averaging 22.6 searches per 10,000 people), Poole (22.5) and East Kilbride (17.3).

What a difference a year makes

Looking at the data for the UK as a whole, search interest in pay rises almost doubled this year, as soaring inflation caused many workers’ real incomes to fall.

There were 422,290 searches for pay rise related terms between October 2021 and September 2022, an increase of 97% on the previous 12 months, when there were 214,420 searches.

Monthly ‘pay rise’ searches have also been dramatically higher – up 67% in September 2022, compared to September 2021 (31,890 vs 19,070).

March 2022 holds the record for the largest number of average monthly searches this year at 53,810, with search interest triggered perhaps by the Bank of England’s warning that UK inflation was on track to hit 8% (it’s now running at 10.1%).

March is also many employers’ year-end, with pay reviews often taking place around this time. Interestingly, the most commonly Googled ‘pay rise’ question – ‘how to ask for a pay rise’ – saw a 50% increase in average monthly searches in March 2022 (5,400), when compared to March 2021 (3,600).

Which workers are Googling pay rises?

Although it’s impossible to identify the people searching for the information in these queries, Ciphr’s study did reveal which organisations and occupations appear most frequently in people’s ‘pay rise’ searches.

The NHS, which employs over 1.3 million staff, appears the most often in the top 300 search results, with 159,850 searches per month over the past year.

Interest in pay rises relating to the public sector, local government, and teachers were also popular, averaging over 25,000 searches a month. Searches about pay rises for nurses came in fifth place, with 10,440 average monthly searches.

Supermarket chain Tesco, police officers, MPs, the civil service, and PwC complete the top 10, with more than 6,500 pay rise searches per month each.

Commenting on the results, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says:

“It’s not surprising to see these recent results and I’m sure most employers are very aware that it is an incredibly unnerving time for employees across the country.

“People are understandably concerned about the impact of the rising cost of living, and, for many, that doesn’t only mean a reduction in their disposable income, but also an impact on their ability to continue to pay the bills. This can cause a huge amount of stress and anxiety, which can in turn impact health and wellbeing.

“If employees are unhappy with their rate of pay or have concerns about the impact of the rising cost of living, I’d urge them to be transparent with their employer and talk to them about their situation. Be realistic around pay expectations, though, especially if the company has salary review processes in place already that would need to be taken into account. Think about what steps you could take within your organisation to increase your salary – could you take on additional duties or responsibilities, perhaps, or an alternative role or more senior position?

“Even if the outcome isn’t what you were hoping for right now, the conversation will still hopefully have a positive impact and your employer will be more aware of what you are looking to earn or achieve. How the company reacts with the knowledge that you are a flight risk may also help you make longer-term decisions around if they are the right employer for you.”

Williams adds: “Employers do have a tricky balancing act to achieve. They will be acutely aware of the impact the increasing cost of living is having on their employees and may already be seeing staff turnover increase as employees seek work elsewhere for more money. Organisations are also seeing their costs increase, and possibly a downturn in revenue as customers become more cautious, so they will also be considering how best to protect their organisations’ financial health and, importantly, their employees’ jobs.

“There are, however, lots of steps that employers can take to help ease the financial impact on their employees, especially when salary increases to match record inflation aren’t a viable option. Start by fully exploring all the features of your existing employee benefits, as lots of these include partner products such as discount shopping sites and cash back allowances. It’s also worth investigating benefits that have a low-cost impact to employers but that can help employees spread costs through loans for technology purchases, travel tickets, bikes, and even cars. Engage with your benefits providers to see if they can offer financial wellbeing seminars to your employees and do some research to share helpful tips and information from the wealth of online resources that are available.”

Ciphr analysed thousands of online search queries about pay rises using KWFinder and Semrush in October 2022. The full results of the study are available at

Ciphr is a specialist provider of cloud-based HR, payroll, recruitment and learning software. More than 600 organisations use Ciphr’s integrated HR and people management solutions to help manage, retain and engage staff more effectively – while reducing the admin burden on busy HR teams.

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