Signs That You’re Being Underpaid

There’s no doubt about it. Being underpaid at your job is extremely frustrating. It can also be totally demoralizing and have a dramatic effect on your wellbeing both inside and outside of the workplace. But how do you know if you’re underpaid? The truth is most workers don’t know how to tell. Research shows that a majority of employees wish that they had a better understanding of what fair pay is for their position, an important thing to be aware of especially if you're the only one looking out for your rights in the workplace.  The good news is that if you look for a few of these warning signs, you can tell if you are being underpaid at work. 

Job Postings

Start out with some online research for job postings in your field, or even on your own company’s website. Try to make sure the posting is very similar to what your job description is and keep a close eye on what other companies, or your own, are offering employees.

Company Booming

Although you may not be able to access the exact revenue your company is bringing in, you can tell when times are good around the office. If the company is growing in size and getting more business, you should see an increase in your pay.  

Salary Survey Sites

It’s easy to dig up info on pay from websites that list salary data such as PayscaleIndeed or Glassdoor. They can give you up-to-date information on what your current salary should be based on your title, experience and location. It’s a great place to start to see if you’re underpaid. 

Boss Is Avoiding the Topic

Can’t seem to get your boss to discuss your wage? It’s probably because they know it’s too low. If you have tried in vain to get a performance review, or even just a quick chat to talk about your career, then your boss probably knows that there is an issue with your wage.

Responsibilities Increasing

Your workload keeps increasing over time, but your pay? Not so much. Of course, we all want to grow and take on more responsibilities at work, but a large part of the motivation to do that is for a pay increase. It should be a big warning sign if you keep getting new titles, but the same paycheque. 

Started Below Average

Sometimes you really need a job, especially when you’re just starting out in your career. If you took your position in desperation at what you know was below average wage, you would hope that an increase would come as soon as possible. If you started below average and are still in the same category – chances are you’re being underpaid.

Odd One Out

One sure fire way to tell if you’re underpaid is if you are making less than your colleagues in the same position as you. If you know you share the same responsibilities, experience and education but are paid less, then there is a problem. It isn’t just your standard wage – you should also keep an eye on if they are receiving better benefits or bonuses. This is an awkward topic to approach with your coworkers, but if you have one you feel you can trust then ask them about it. 

High Turnover

If it seems like the turnover in your workplace is high, that is a clear sign something is wrong. While there could be several reasons, like workplace bullying or an overbearing boss, if your workplace seems otherwise stable, that is a sign that the pay is not good.

No Review

Performance reviews are a key part of your growth in the workplace, and they are usually the time when you and your boss discuss a wage increase. If you haven’t had a performance review or a raise in a year or more, you’re being overlooked for a raise. 

Small Salary Increases

You may have received a yearly raise, but is it actually enough? If you’re finding your raises are always around 1 to 2 percent per year, that is usually just a sign of keeping up with inflation, not an actual raise to reward you for your work.

While there are many ways to tell if you’re underpaid, doing something about it is not always as easy. This is especially true if you’re being underpaid due to discrimination because of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. No matter what you decide to do with the information you find, always keep in mind that you deserve to be paid fairly for the work you do. 

We're here to help

Do you have any questions about your rights in the workplace or need someone to talk to about your job stress? Contact one of our free labour counsellors at (403) 259-4608 or

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