should our raises be late just because our performance reviews are late?

A reader writes:

I work for a small company. The leadership and many members of the team, myself included, left another, much larger company three years ago to start this firm.

I’ve gotten great annual pay increases at the new small company! But my gripe is that they don’t seem to be pegged to any kind of 12-month calendar; they’re contingent on when our reviews get scheduled, which our founders are very laid back about.

Many of us share the same work anniversary due to having left the previous company together, so we’re all experiencing the same issue. Let’s say my work anniversary is May 1. In 2021, my annual review didn’t get scheduled until July 1, and that’s when my raise took effect, meaning I worked 14 months at my 2020 salary. In 2022, my annual review got scheduled for July 15 and that’s when my raise took effect, so I worked one year and one pay period at my 2021 salary. I was frustrated because last year, my review got pushed by two weeks due to unrelated scheduling conflicts, meaning moving that meeting effectively lost me money! We’re talking 10% increases year over year, so it’s a decent chunk of change.

I mentioned the old company because the convention there was to issue backdated incremental paychecks that would apply the raise to the pay periods between when my work anniversary took place and when my review got scheduled. I loved this, because it meant raises were pegged to a firm 12-month schedule and if my review got scheduled late, it wouldn’t affect my salary. My founders came from there with me, so I think philosophically they’re open to it, but I also think springing an ask on them today to backdate my 2022 salary increase by a pay period (and having to do that across the company) might be a big ask financially for our smaller firm.

I don’t know what’s conventional here — does my company have any obligation to peg raises to a strict 12 months? Is backdating raises a thing that many companies do? I have enough political currency/seniority to make a case for whatever I think they should do, but I want to be sure my expectations are reasonable. I have the option of advocating at minimum for reviews moving forward to happen BEFORE our start date anniversary, which I think they’d be open to, but I’m curious whether I can remedy us being “underpaid” historically (if I’m looking at this the right way).

I think you’re asking about legal obligations, and companies don’t have any legal obligation to give raises at all, let alone to peg them to any particular schedule. So there’s no legal remedy here (assuming that your company didn’t make a commitment in writing to raise your salary at specific intervals, which I’m guessing they didn’t).

The way your company does it is pretty common — aiming for roughly annual salary reviews, but not always hitting the 12-month mark. There also are lots of companies that don’t have any kind of salary review schedule at all, and either they happen when they happen, or they don’t happen at all unless a specific employee requests one. (You’re talking about working an extra pay period “at my 2022 salary” — but salaries aren’t normally pegged to years like that; there isn’t typically such a rigid expectation for “your salary will increase every year on exactly this date.”)

However, there are lots of companies that back-date raises — so that if you’re supposed to get an annual evaluation and it’s late, once it does happen any accompanying raise will be retroactive to whenever the review was supposed to be. That’s the way your old company did it, and it’s a really common approach … and a good one, since reviews often do get pushed off when other priorities get in the way, and you shouldn’t be financially penalized for that.

If you’re talking about 10% raises every year (which is a lot higher than the average raise, which is closer to 3%) and they’re only delayed by a short time, I wouldn’t consider this an outrage. But you’d be on solid ground in advocating for future raises being retroactive to the intended review date (or work anniversary or however you do it).

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. yala*

    Anything’s better than our policy of “cost-of-living adjustments” that only kick in this fiscal year after a successful review. Our fiscal year starts in July.

    Our reviews are in August.

    1. Polar Vortex*

      I was going to say, if only I had a 10% raise every 12-14 mos, I’d be the happiest of campers.

      1. Sad State Employee*

        Me too! I’m only getting a 1.5% “raise” this year. I can’t imagine 10%!!

        1. ferrina*

          My company only does raises every 3-4 years. They try to pay well to make up for it (so the same salary is still a good salary for 3-4 years), but it is a mental adjustment.

      2. constant_craving*

        Yes. I understand why OP is saying missing out on many pay periods of the raise is a big deal because the raise is large, but I don’t think it’s actually a strong of a bargaining point with the company. It’s basically saying “you give better raises than most places,” which the company will probably see as a reason the employees shouldn’t care too much if the date of effect is off a little.

      3. Goldenrod*

        “If only I had a 10% raise every 12-14 mos, I’d be the happiest of campers.”

        I came here to say this too! I get why the delay is annoying, but at my place of work, we’re overjoyed if we get 4%. During an economic downturn, we might get as little as 2%, or 3% if we’re lucky.

        I’ve only gotten 10% raises when switching jobs! So really, this is a pretty huge annual increase, from my perspective.

        1. Me (I think)*

          We had plenty of 0% years over my 25+ year career at a small university. Lots of 1 and 2% years, too. It starts to gall you after a while when new people come in at significantly higher salaries “because of market conditions” but they would never give you a raise to get to that same level “because you’re already working for that (low) salary.”

        2. Lizzie*

          I agree. In fact I JUST was notified of my annual merit increase. I got 4% which is the top of the range, company-wide. I was promoted a few years ago, and prior to that, as I was at the top of my old range, I got teeny raises, like $600 or so. Now that I’m making more and closer to the bottom of my new range, I get much larger increases!

          I’d be thrilled with 10% too, no matter when they came!

      4. yala*

        10% blows my mind. Our cost of living adjustment is 4% (less depending on how much you make).

        For the record, our insurance went up by 4.5%. So…it seems like a misnomer.

      5. Amorette Allison*

        No kidding. I had to join the union this year because of not getting raises due to the high cost of living. For the employers, not the employees. As if we weren’t getting hit, too!

      6. Inkognyto*

        “Here’s your 1% adjusted to meet market.” It was 1% last year

        I’m in Information Security, I know my market rates and 3 years ago they were 20% lower. That sound you hear is my resume being dusted off and polished.

        My reviews are not tied to performance. My last mgr kept dodging the question on what I can do to get a raise. I have a new one recently and I’m going to ask him flat out.

        So maybe he’ll go up the chain to ask if he wants to keep this hard to fill position or pay more. It took them well over a year to fill it last time because they not only want a CISSP and IT Security person, they want 8 years of Database experience.

      7. State employee*

        I have worked for a state institution for more than a dozen yrs. I can count on one hand the number of raises. All less than cost of living increase and all “merit based” (we really don’t get inflation raises). So I would be delighted to get 10% every 14 months.

    2. Notalot*

      My husband’s company doesn’t even do COLAs. Like, ever. there are people who have been there for 7+ years without ever having received a raise in pay. I’m shocked they stick around, we are in a very high cost of living metro area, the tech epicenter of the Pacific Northwest.

      He’s been promoted twice so got raises with the promotions, but he is well aware that once he’s in a role, there will never be a raise.

      1. Sarasmiles*

        Wow, that’s pretty wild that they don’t give raises and people put up with it. The only way that might be OK is if they are paid incredibly well and it’s made clear when they’re hired that they will not receive raises of any kind, ever (unless they’re promoted, etc.). Do you know if people there have complained about it?

        1. Notalot*

          They are not paid well, and people have complained. They have a pretty high turnover as you can imagine. Usually when someone quits, instead of replacing them they distribute the former employee’s workload among remaining team members and give one of them a heftier load, a small title change/promotion, and a modest pay bump. It saves them money overall, and it gives those remaining hope that a raise will happen someday.
          Eventually they are going to run out of people though.

  2. Cmdrshpard*

    I think trying to ask for retroactive back pay from July 2022 seems like a bit much considering the potential payroll implications of trying to go that far back. Not in accounting so maybe it isn’t that hard?

    I think asking for backpay based on start day/anniversary moving forward would be reasonable. If your anniversary is May 1, 2023 you can ask for your pay raise to start then no matter when your next review gets scheduled.

    1. Llama Llama*

      Lol. I am in Payroll Accounting. I work for an extremely large company (which makes a difference for this) and causes sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many problems when people retro activity.

      1. NPOQueen*

        I do expenses for my team and retroactively moving money from one account to another is also hard. Why is this so hard, both accounts still have money in them? I can’t imagine how hard it must be for payroll.

    2. LJ*

      I think those were just hypothetical dates / delay in publication from the letter. The OP was likely considering this shortly after the raise happened (vs. asking in March 2023 for something that happened in July 2022)

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        “My founders came from there with me, so I think philosophically they’re open to it, but I also think springing an ask on them TODAY to backdate my 2022 salary increase by a pay period (and having to do that across the company) might be a big ask financially for our smaller firm.”

        I think they were slightly considering asking NOW (as in Q1 of 2023, depends on when letter was submitted) for back pay for the time period between July 1, 2022 and July 15, 2022. I think OP knew/knows that would be a bigger ask but just wanted to double check with someone.

        I don’t think asking for retroactive pay within a few pay periods of raise going into effect would be bad, but I would say August/September would be the latest. Anything in a different fiscal year I would say is a no go, with out a very good reason.

        I think OP’s idea of asking for a retroactive policy to be put in place now would be good.

  3. StressedButOkay*

    I think reframing it from my “2020 pay”/”2021 pay” rates might help in this case. It’s never guaranteed that you’re going to get a raise – I was stuck at the same salary for three years because of COVID – and even if your organization historically does it every year, there might always be the chance that they could run into some issues that they have to lower the amount or pause them.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes, “my current pay rate” is what most people work with. Rarely have I had reviews fall in the same month year after year, usually they get pushed back a little bit.

  4. A Simple Narwhal*

    My company has everyone do reviews at the same time of the year, regardless of start date. Managers must submit their employees’ assessments to HR by the end of the calendar year, meaning employees have to complete their portion of the assessment at the start of December. Everything is reviewed/discussed/decided, etc in January/February, and new salaries go into effect March 1.

    Having a set date for everyone means that everyone knows exactly when these things are going to happen and no one can be confused or forget. It’s not perfect but consistency has its benefits.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, our raise/promotion cycles are based on the calendar year, and I basically came here to say the same thing: it’s not perfect, but consistency has its benefits.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Same here! Reviews fall somewhere around February/March but definitely get pushed off if there are scheduling conflicts or other priorities, but raises are all backdated to the beginning of the year. This is when bonuses and promotions are also announced. (The paycheck where your backpay and bonus are both included are super nice!)

    3. Polar Vortex*

      We have something similar. I definitely appreciate it even if I hate having to write my annual review – although beats having to write them as a manager now that I’m back to IC.

    4. Bit o' Brit*

      Same for us. Appraisal season is September and merit raises go into effect from 1st October. Then cost of living adjustments are done from 1st March for the whole organisation. The October payroll deadline is when managers have to have submitted the paperwork to HR, so if they do get delayed they can’t be delayed by much. I started in March originally, so for my first appraisal it was sort of in combination with my 6-month probation review.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is the way my organization does it as well, and, if I had to do annual reviews based on start date anniversaries, I would never get anything else done. (My four teams used to be standardized review dates at three different times of year, and I felt like I was always starting or ending a review cycle. All at once is much more streamlined/organized/easier to hit deadlines.)

      Where I work, if you start mid-year, you get a partial year evaluation at regular review time and a pro-rated increase. The only time I went more than a year between increases was when they hit one of our standardization points to move my team in line with the new review date, so we got a larger raise and bonus since it would be 18 months to our next review.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      Ours is similar timing. It’s nice because it means bonuses and raises kick in right around when taxes are due lol. Plus it’s often near a 3-payday month.

    7. sb51*

      +1 If the LW is in a position to push for changes, a standardized schedule would be good. It’d also avoid issues like clumps of people under the same manager having close start dates and thus the manager getting swamped, because EVERY manager is doing them ALL at the same time and time can be set aside for them. It also means the economic situation is the same for everyone when raises are set.

      1. another_scientist*

        that’s what I came here to point out. You can be a lot fairer when you review everyone at the same time. Otherwise reviews could fluctuate a lot based on how the company/the economy/your bosses’ personal lives are doing at the moment of a person’s review.
        Once all reviews are submitted, we also do a department wide cross-comparison of all those that have the same job title, so that productivity is compared more generally, while your own boss might supervise only one staff in any given job title, so they may not have a good baseline to assess their performance.

      2. Tio*

        This also avoids the manager having to keep track of everyone’s start dates for evals, particularly if they have a lot of reports, and it’s why I think most mid-to-larger sized companies do it this way; every company I’ve been at has done it like this. If OP is going to use capital to set a raise standard, this would be the best way to do it, imo.

      3. Agent Diane*

        It also helps iron out any inequality in how raises are allocated, as there can be a clear point where the founders check how the annual reviews and raises have gone. What might start as a small inequality (Brad and Janet are delivering the same work in the same way but their manager gives Brad a bigger raise in year one) into a legal liability after a few years.*

        If they are serious about growing their business, they need to get serious about this.

        *UK Equal Pay law so YMMV in the US!

    8. yala*

      See, this at least makes sense. For the life of me, I will never understand why my place decided to implement a schedule for everyone’s reviews (a good thing), but not have the new salaries go into effect until 11 months after the review.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Because if the person leaves for another job within that year, they won’t have to pay anything out. A slightly better interpretation is that it’s 11 months later because they have to budget for it in a new year.

        1. ugh*

          Honestly, I really feel like it’s the former (also, if we get another freeze, well…). Especially considering that NOT getting the raise is the more unusual thing, so afaik they usually just figure it in already.

    9. hbc*

      I think this is way more common. Asking individual managers to be on the ball for reviews on a half dozen plus dates every year when no one else is going to notice is a losing proposition. I think this is super important, and there’s no way I would execute well under that approach.

      Everyone having reviews due Nov 15 for raises effective Jan 1 will mean HR, payroll, and upper management will be bugging stragglers by Nov 16.

    10. LaLa*

      Ours is similar but even more spread out: everyone does their reviews in March and April, then raises occur in July.

      It never occurred to me to be upset that my 2% raise should start in the Spring. If I was getting an annual 10% raise that came one month late in my mind, I’d definitely keep my head down and not raise a stink about it!

    11. JanetM*

      My state university does reviews in spring, the legislature passes the budget (which may or may not include a raise pool) in late spring/early summer, and raises (if included in the legislative budget) are generally implemented in August backdated to July 1. The backdated month shows up on the August paystub as “additional pay.”

      The university no longer does COLAs; merit raises only based on your review score. Merit raises are generally in the range of 1%-2.5%. Except for administration, whose raises are much higher percentages.

      In some years, the not-recognized-by-the-university-or-the-state union has been able to apply enough pressure that the lowest-paid staff receive a flat-rate raise.

      Note: all of that is for staff; I have no idea how faculty raises work except that there is a raise when a professor attains tenure (goes from Assistant Prof to Associate Prof) and another if they’re promoted to Professor.

    12. DisgruntledPelican*

      Same here. Reviews are supposed to be around your anniversary, but that doesn’t always happen (my anniversary always falls at the worst possible time, so my review is normally pushed back a couple months), but raises always go into affect at the start of the fiscal year.

    13. BlueWolf*

      Same, although ours is split up based on whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt reviews happen before July 1 and then any raise is effective July 1. Exempt employee reviews happen at year-end, effective January 1.

    14. amoeba*

      Yup, same here – I think for large orgs it’s a lot easier this way, I can’t imagine doing it differently for thousands of people! But then we also get raises in the 1-3% range, so would be quite happy to change it to 10% raises every 14 months, haha…

    15. Lizzie*

      We do this as well, but our raises are as of April 1. Review are done by the end of Jan., no matter when you started.

  5. Colette*

    One thing I’d point out is that IME it’s unusual to have reviews & raises based on when you started with the company; usually the company does the reviews and raises for everyone at the same time (with the possiblity of some people getting additional raises mid-cycle if they’ve taken on a new role).

    You could ask for them to do them at a pre-set time of year – that may or may not work in a small company, but it’s OK to ask.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Having one set review/increase period is much easier administratively, so they may consider it.

    2. Zee*

      IME it’s unusual to have reviews & raises based on when you started with the company

      I think your experience is not the typical experience. Everywhere I’ve ever worked does them on the anniversary of your hire date.

      1. Katrina*

        Everywhere I have worked (6+ employers) does it at the same period – so review season is scheduled for Aug/Sept say; pay review season is scheduled to follow that (once everyone’s reviews are in so they can benchmark across teams) for Oct/Nov say; and there is one date where new rates apply – Jan 1, for instance. No messing about with when Susy started or Malcolm had extended leave, does that affect his start date.

        1. amoeba*

          Maybe it also depends on the size of the company? In my experience and that of my partner and friends in the same industry, it’s also always a fixed review period. But we all work for large orgs (>10.000 employees), so I can imagine it would be quite complicated to do it individually!

          1. doreen*

            Maybe – I worked for a state government and my agency alone had more than 10K employees. For most jobs, evaluations were completed around the anniversary of when you started in your current position ( not necessarily your hiring date). For management positions, everyone’s evaluation was due April 1. It might have been more complicated for me to keep track of due dates – but in all the years I was a manager, my own evaluation was never completed on time. I assume that was because my supervisor had to complete 8 evaluations and his supervisor had to review and approve about 30 in a short period of time.

          2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            I have worked at half a dozen employers with anywhere from 50 to 50,000 employees and every one of them did everyone’s reviews at the same time of year.

      2. Froggy*

        Everywhere I have worked has a set annual cycle for performance reviews. Same w my partner. This includes no, state, federal, contractor and private businesses.

    3. londonedit*

      Yep, same. We have a company-wide cost of living pay rise at the start of the new financial year, so our pay rises aren’t tied to appraisals or performance, but our appraisals are all meant to be done within a two-month window. Sometimes that doesn’t quite happen if we’re particularly busy or if it’s difficult to find a time because people are on holiday or whatever, but broadly speaking that’s how it works. Seems much easier than everyone having an appraisal on a different date based on when they started.

  6. Meep*

    We don’t even get COLA here (albeit a start-up), so I am going, to be honest, a consistent raise every 15 months sounds nice.

    1. JelloStapler*

      I’ll take the 10% pay raise even if it is off by a month or two.

      We have annual reviews every year with a long form and a meeting and if we’re really really good that year- and they even have the money for it- we might get a 1% raise!!

      Sorry is my frustration showing?

    2. Three Flowers*

      Seriously. My colleagues and I have had 6% *total* “COLA” (scare quotes because it doesn’t even approach the change in cost of living here) over the past three years. I wish we were all in a position to complain about annual 10% raises that are actually 12.5 months apart instead of 12.

    3. LH*

      Yep. Government employee here. No COLA. No guaranteed annual raises. And 10%? No way, never.

      OP is absolutely entitled to his feelings. But being in their shoes would be a DREAM for myself and my co-workers.

      1. pope suburban*

        Same. I’m not even allowed in the union, because my position is full-time for UI purposes, but part-time for benefits and union-eligibility purposes; it’s the worst of both worlds. So far, I have been included in whatever the union negotiates, but I am not required to be and I don’t ever expect to be. And even then, the best they’ve ever done was 5% over two years, which doesn’t remotely keep pace with COL. I mean, I’ll take it, but it’s a slap in the face and it’s going to mean I will not be able to afford to stay here. 10% every year-ish sounds like a miracle.

  7. NeedRain47*

    They give us backpay for our raises that covers the time between our work anniversary and whenever HR processes it… but our raises are so small that even if it’s several months late, the backpay is a couple hundred dollars. It’s not much.

    Previous job gave everyone raises at the same time and claimed it wasn’t tied to our reviews, even tho it was in fact tied to performance. (it wasn’t tied to the *timing* of our reviews b/c raises were infrequent and really, really small. I once got a .7% raise. zero point 7 percent. That was for an average review. I cried.

  8. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    This is a small young company that is probably still growing. Small companies do not often have as rigid policy set up.

    Guiding policy for the future is reasonable, I think asking for back pay is unreasonable. Especially from 9 months ago.

    Not all companies do things the same way. Most companies do not care when you started/anniversary date, they give all raises out on a specific day of the year to everyone at the same time. In your case, this date is a bit fluid but treating your hire date as THE date is not necessarily the norm.

    Personally, considering how few industries are even coming close to giving COLA level raises and you are getting significant raises roughly annually, I would not consider this a hill to die on. I would not use the term “underpaid” for sure unless you had voluntarily taken a large pay cut during the start-up phase and the company finances now indicate you should be paid a market rate.

    1. Static Pay, would love annual raises.*

      Exactly. An annual pay raise of that size is a gift, it isn’t your ‘2022 pay rate’, it is your ‘current pay rate I hope goes up next year’.. The only time I’ve seen structured pay like LW seems to expect was when I was in aerospace or working for the federal government.

      I work for a 30 year old company of 75 employees. We just (re)instituted annual reviews but pay raises (ha!!!) or titles aren’t tied to the reviews, so nobody not our HR person sees the point or takes the process very seriously. We get bonuses but haven’t seen changes in our base pay rates for a while.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It’s a small company that’s probably growing. I wouldn’t expect 10% to be a regular thing, but I wouldn’t consider it a gift.
        Companies don’t just throw around money to be nice.

      2. amoeba*

        I mean, it’s not that uncommon – in my industry, there’s typically an “annual compensation review” with a fixed budget for raises across the whole company and the individual raises then determined by your performance review as well as your position within the salary band. It’s not at all in the range of 10% though! The budget for the whole company is typically something like 1-2%…

  9. John*

    Yeah, I’ve never heard of reviews being timed to service anniversaries.

    Most companies do all reviews at the same time (allows for management to ensure an appropriate ratings distribution because they can compare proposed ratings at the same time).

    And merit increases are typically announced at a later date, though no guarantee that everyone will get one.

    1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

      Actually, this timing does exist. My 10 years as a manager in an 800 employee firm used this system. The rationale was that managers would not get too overwhelmed as their staff anniversary dates would (theoretically) be spread over the calendar year. So it likely depends on the company.

    2. Phlox*

      Eh it happens, was how it worked at my last job. We did have an org practice that raise was tied to anniversary date which I really appreciated as a manager – great to avoid having pay changes for my staff tied to when I had time to schedule a two hour review meeting with them (or work around my time off, etc).

    3. allathian*

      My employer does performance reviews in February/March that cover the previous calendar year, and your performance is reviewed if you’ve been working for at least 6 months that year. If not, you have a mid-year review and are not eligible for any personal performance raises (government). We do get annual COL raises as stipulated in collective agreements, but they don’t currently match inflation. This year, my COL raise is something like 2% when inflation’s around 8%.

      I’ve more or less lost faith in the system, though. This year I had at least meets expectations across the board, with some “slightly exceeds expectations” on a scale of 1-5, so a bunch of grades between 3 and 4. In practice, nobody ever gets a 5 unless they’re doing so much more than their paygrade requires that they should be promoted to the next pay band but there are no positions available. An average of 4 is required for a raise, mine was something like 3.75. It’s a bit frustrating given that I’ve had consistently positive feedback from our internal customers and my manager all year.

      I’ve grown very cynical now. There’s a reason why the statement “The salary of an employee reflects their performance” consistently gets the poorest score in our employee satisfaction survey.

  10. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Do you work in an unionized environment?

    Because that’s the only way most could clearly track XX Year’s wages from year to year.

    We were still at “2021’s pay rate” at the start of 2022 because we had not yet finished bargaining. Once bargaining was finished and the annual COLA’s signed off of, everyone got backpay, which took weeks for Poor Payroll to calculate.

    Imagine if bargaining took years instead, which happens. Everyone is then bound by the last signed off (ratified) collective agreement and NO one gets a raise at all until bargaining is done. The backpay is massive.

    1. CheesePlease*

      Yes I was thinking this too (although I am unaware of what union jobs give a 10% yearly raise – sign me up!!!!). A lot of union business is based on seniority and therefore start date / hire date is VERY IMPORTANT. Previous companies with union (hourly) jobs had standard wage increases pegged to these dates (every 6 months) and that was signed in the contract.

      So OP, unless you have a contract or are unionized, it’s really a common practice (even if less beneficial to employees). My previous job did not do any retroactive payments. We got a 2-3% raise (no COLA) and it took effect the following pay period. the end.

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

        No 10% raises here! I think it was 2, 2, 2, and 2 for the last one, and that’s fine with me as we’re already above average for salary.

      2. Pierrot*

        Yeah, I’m a finalist for a union job and there is a pay scale with guaranteed raises every year, but they’re 2% raises. Which still sounds great to me since there’s a guarantee and I’d rather be in a union than not, and unions are rare in the field I’m going into.

    2. slashgirl*

      Except here, they put our back pay in with our regular pay, so the taxes pretty much kill the back pay. Unionized, just finished a contract with 2 years of 0% raises and 1.5 being the highest. However, that was NOT a negotiated contract; the government at the time made it pay scheme for everyone in education and healthcare. That gov’t lost the last election.

      This contract included a process for wage parity, so that everyone across the province in the same category (eg Educational Assistant will make the same per hour wage–different boards have different unions). We went on strike for 2.5 weeks to get that.

      Yeah, only time I’ve seen guaranteed wage increases are with a union.

      And I would f*cking love a 10% increase in my per hour rate.

    3. Alex*

      Yep! My colleagues an I are working on our “2020” salaries because they’ve been fighting over the contract for so long.

  11. I should really pick a name*

    I would suggest talking about changing how it’s done moving forward. That gives the company time to adjust their budget accordingly, and is simply more likely to get a positive response than trying to make the current raises retroactive.

    1. new year, new name*

      I agree with this approach. Since the company is growing, maybe framing it as “it will be helpful to have standard timeframes going forward, to make sure things are consistent and fair” would land well. If everyone’s raise is backdated to the start of the fiscal year (or whatever) that means the company will never end up in a situation where, for example, the women are getting paid less than their male peers due to scheduling issues.

      The organization I work for (a large nonprofit) has a performance review cycle that is nominally tied to the fiscal year but in reality could take place anywhere in like a six-month period based on whatever else is going on that year. But they always backdate pay increases to a set date.

  12. Oryx*

    I’ve only ever gotten a raise that large when it was tied to a promotion, which is not something that happens every year. So 10% every year is quite a lot and pretty unusual. As others have said, it might be helpful to stop thinking of these as your “2020 salary” and “2021 salary” and just “your salary until told otherwise, which may or may not be next year.”

    We also don’t tie our reviews to our anniversaries. Everyone is on the same schedule where reviews happen in January and new salaries are applied in February. This is consistent for everyone, so no matter when in January their review happens the raises are all at the same time.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      Yep, same with our reviews happening at the same time. That might be something to suggest, as well, OP. I know you said that most of your start dates are currently, roughly the same but you’re with a growing company – that won’t always be the case. Aim for the start of the year, see if they’ll back date if the reviews drag into March; or, if the fiscal year is not the end of the year, structure it along those lines.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      I got 10-12% raises my first two years working back in the late 80s. While I was definitely doing well and improving at the job, it was probably more a function of starting out at the very low end of the position pay scale and being underpaid significantly. After a couple of those, it was a much more sedate 2-3% increase annually.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I was actually also wondering – sure, 10% raises sound great, but how good are the starting salaries? If they’re (significantly) below market rate, it’s quite a different story than if people are already paid well…

  13. YM*

    *blinks in public servant* Guaranteed annual raises, you say? Without threatening strike action, you say?

    1. new year, new name*

      I don’t think replies like this are very helpful to the OP! We all know that employment, especially in the U.S., is massively unfair an unequal in lots of ways. But that doesn’t mean OP shouldn’t ask a legitimate question about the job that they have. That’s literally what this website is for!

      1. Worth Considering*

        I don’t know… I think this kind of reply *is* helpful. If I were the OP, I would want to understand that (at least in the US) this sort of request is very, very uncommon and may make me seem out of touch if I raise it with my boss(es).

        Alison gave a great response, but it’s worth driving home: the mentality of a “2022 salary” and raising this with your employer could come at a cost and make it seem like you don’t understand workplace norms.

        1. Three Flowers*

          I agree. If they are in the US, OP sounds pretty out of touch, and hopefully a little polite reality check here will prevent them from sounding out of touch to their management.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            Seeing as they (and their leadership team) came from a company that did retroactive raises, they don’t sound out of touch to me.

        2. new year, new name*

          The part about 10% raises is unusual, sure, but plenty of places (including everywhere I’ve ever worked, which includes for-profit, non-profit, and government organizations) have some kind of periodic pay increase that’s tied to some kind of timeframe. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some sort of consistent policy.

          Anyway, I think the underlying question is more of a basic fairness issue: if you typically give your employees an X% increase each calendar year, but some people receive it in May and some people receive it in July due to when their performance reviews are scheduled, that seems like a good way to accidentally compound pay disparities between employees.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            My work experience is very, very different from yours. Raises outside of those tied to promotions (which were very, very infrequent) or statutorily mandated increases have never been an expectation anywhere I’ve ever worked over the past 20 years. That being said, I agree with everything you say about it being reasonable to have consistency. And I think that absolutely should start with timeframe. The way it is done in my current organization is that everyone across all 900 or so employees has their evaluation done at about the same time. Usually that means September or early October. There is a LOT of flexibility though – it can be done anywhere in that 6 week or so period. There is a deadline in mid-October by which managers are required to have their performance evaluations and recommendations on salary increase in to HR. There is a standard rate for cost-of-living and there is a merit raise possible for those who go above and beyond. These are based on your income for equity reasons. Like those who make over $75K might get 2% as their COLA while those under might get 4% (these are not the exact numbers, I just don’t feel like looking them up would make a difference to my comment). The manager is required to ask for a COLA or merit raise for each employee or we don’t get it. HR reviews and approves everything and if it takes longer than the next pay period to get your raise input correctly into the system, you’ll get a retroactive payment in your first paycheck under the new salary. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to work well enough with my manager, who is a reasonable and decent human being. I don’t see any reason this company couldn’t make a similar policy of allowing the managers to do the reviews over the course of 4-6 weeks at a certain time of year that is the same for everyone, and then increasing everyone’s pay accordingly, again at the same time for everyone.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      You guys can strike? At my last government employer a group threatened to strike and the elected official responded by saying she’d have strikers arrested. And apparently the law where I live supports her.

  14. The Person from the Resume*

    LW, what your old company did is not unusual, but there’s no legal requirement and no “standard.”

    What I find interesting is that you’re blase about your annual review being delayed when that’s what causing the delay in your pay raise! Instead of backdating your pay raise (which you are familiar with from you old company), they could just ensure that your annual reviews occur on time so employees get their pay raise the next pay check.

    But it’s all perspective because it seems like unless your company changes their process and policies, they don’t actually give annual pay raises. They give pay raises after employee’s annual review which are more likely to take place every 13-14 months.

    My perspective is that I’ve been a federal employee my whole life. People’s annual reviews were never just delayed or pushed back because the manager was busy. These things were done on time or there were consquences or very good reasons. The process was that a manager had time after the review period to complete the review and get it fully submitted. But also federal pay rates are NOT tied to our annual reviews.

    I do think it is too late to impact pay raises that were done 2021 and 2022. I would suggest you propose a solution to the leadership team, but expect it not to be retroactive or address past years.

  15. Somehow_I_Manage*

    I haven’t done a ton of job hopping, but I am in my third job in 15+ years. The movement has really helped me have perspective on how different things can be place to place. OP’s experience is really wonderful, and I’m sure they deserve it; although I’d say the generosity is slightly abnormal and I would be careful not to appear ungrateful and entitled to better treatment.

    I’m sure there are others in the comments who will imply OP is getting the royal treatment. But, for most industries annual increases during good economic times are common. It’s just important to understand that those increases are always subject to the performance of the company, the outlook for the next year, and the philosophy of ownership/senior management. While we’ve had a good run, those that were working 2008-2014 can attest that in bad times, annual raises were probably the outlier.

  16. Evelyn*

    I’m going to echo what some other folks have said and suggest that instead of saying “hey, can we make these raises retroactive” you talk about restructuring the review/raise cycle so that it’s done at the same time for everyone every year, regardless of their start date (though you can always build in a minimum period of employment before you get a review/raise so you’re not trying to do reviews on folks who’ve only been there two weeks).
    That’s what my org does, and the decisions about raises are made by some date, and then they are shared with us by our managers (ideally during the review but not necessarily – sometimes the compensation conversation is separate). Usually that conversation is during the pay period where they will take effect, sometimes it’s the pay period before (we get paid every two weeks, so if the new salary goes into effect March 1, you might have that conversation any time March 1-14 and then see it reflected in the check for that period).

    1. Evelyn*

      To add – you’re a small company now, but creating some of these structures and processes will really help if the company grows!

  17. Isben Takes Tea*

    Also consider that backdating salaries to a previous calendar year really messes with taxes, for both the employer and employee. It is a much more administratively friendly proposal to suggest changing the process moving forward.

    1. Boof*

      I think they can pick an annual salary review date that works for them; could be during the the first quarter (when presumably they can base it off the numbers from the last year, but offically starts for the end of the first quarter), could be at the 1 year mark from hiring, etc

  18. Immortal for a limited time*

    There’s no reason to expect every person will get a raise on the anniversary of their hire date. Many companies will have an annual review period that applies to all employees hired after a certain date (so, for example, someone who was just hired would not have to go through an annual review two or three months later). The review period might be at the end of the fiscal year or calendar year (e.g., June or December). Raises — for those lucky enough to earn one — often then are effective with the first pay period of the next fiscal or calendar year, because the company would have budgeted for them. If reviews were performed late for some reason, raises would probably be applied retroactively, but otherwise they would simply be part of an already scheduled, annual process. You might want to push this new company into creating a pay plan policy and to establish an annual review period that must be completed by X date. A mid-year review is also something that many organizations do and may be a good idea to keep everyone on track.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, this is basically what we do. If you were hired by the first of the calendar year, you will have your annual performance review in the spring, which will determine the amount of your salary increase. Due dates for that are set by HR. Salary increases take effect at the start of the next fiscal year in July (I’m in higher ed). If you were hired after the first of the calendar year, you don’t get an annual review until the following year.

    2. Pierrot*

      Yeah, especially for a start up if it’s growing. I could see the anniversary raises working when the company is still small, but if it’s growing that can get complicated pretty quickly.

  19. Boof*

    Especially since the people at the top are likely familiar with backdating etc, it’s extremely reasonable to raise it as a “I’ve noticed [raises area great, but reviews and timings of raises seem a bit haphazard], remember how we used to [schedule salary reviews annually and backdate if reviews were delayed] at old company, I really liked that, can we make that the new policy”
    I wouldn’t ask to make it retroactive if you’re otherwise pretty happy with your salary and the company culture, but who knows, maybe they’ll offer if they are enthused by the idea.

  20. Silicon Valley Girl*

    This is why the concept of a company-wide “annual review cycle” is useful. Everyone gets performance reviews at the same predictable time of year, & if raises & promotions are related to those reviews, they are applied at the same predictable time of year afterwards. Only then, if something runs late, would back-dating pay be necessary — because the schedule has been announced.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Until, of course, someone’s manager doesn’t complete their portion of their employees’ annual reviews and seems entirely impervious to any attempts from HR to finish them. Like mine, for four years now.

  21. MassMatt*

    I agree with the many comments about 10% raises being abnormally large, unless it’s in a country with high inflation.

    I would say the annoying thing about the company is not that they have a delay of a couple or even several pay periods from when reviews are SUPPOSED to be done to when they actually are—that’s pretty common. But that delayed date should not start a new 12 month clock for the NEXT review, which also gets missed. If reviews are supposed to be done in March but don’t happen until May, the next review should still be scheduled for March.

    Resetting the clock means the two month lag adds up over time, and someone there ten years only has eight reviews. If the starting salary is $100,000, ten reviews and increases @10% is $260,000. Eight reviews @10% is under 215,000.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      Also, it could add problems for some people, where someone whose worked there longer is getting paid less than someone who has worked a shorter time doing the same job.
      Person A started November 2021 and Person B started January 2022. But person A’s manager was not able to meet with them to do a review until February 2023 when person B was able to do their review on time in January so now Person B is making more than person A.

  22. I AM a Lawyer*

    While not required, I think it’s common to retroactively pay increases. Our reviews/evaluations are based on performance in the prior fiscal year, so we want that full year to elapse before the reviews are done. As a result, it’s not possible to start paying the increase the first day of the fiscal year. So, we provide a retroactive lump sum representing the amount the employee would have received had the increase been paid starting the first day of the fiscal year. My prior employer did it the same way.

  23. Hola Playa*

    We’re about six months late on reviews and raises. We gave everyone a bonus to account for what the retroactive pay increase equals and new salary begins on next paycheck. Easiest and hopefully fair way to deal with accounting and trying to make up for my delay.

  24. Raida*

    Talk to the managers about back-pay for late reviews.
    Tell them that if the reviews are late, and that saves the company money, they are going to eventually get staff annoyed at being ‘ripped off’ by what is a deliberate act to not get the reviews done annually.

    Essentially, frame it as a business risk mitigation process – keep staff happy, don’t let standards slip, clearly identify anyone supposed to do a review that isn’t doing it as is their responsibility.

  25. Prospect Gone Bad*

    This feels like it is a disguised version of my company:-). As a Director, I view the “review period” as a general reminder to do them, not a strict calendar. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it can be interesting to see some people asking to adhere to them as if there is a specific date they must be getting a raise by, just assuming we have extra money sitting around, or following up on potential raises when they know they haven’t met the criteria set the prior year.

    It’s really hard to stick to a calendar if you’re not in an industry where trends are super-predictable. If I worked at Colgate or Procter and Gamble, it may be easier to predict funding a year out.

    In my company, raises are just one part of the mesh of financial decisions to make and if other ones don’t get made (which can rely on things such as the amount of sales occurring or laws being passed) then we can’t decide on raises, even if we want to.

    1. MassMatt*

      But the issue here doesn’t seem to be the business being too complex to determine the funding available, it’s that managers are not prioritizing doing reviews on which any raises depend. And that is sending a very negative message throughout the organization.

      The better companies I’ve worked for made evaluating the staff a priority. Managers had deadlines by which they had to do reviews. There was no “meh, maybe when I get around to it”, it had to be done, and at the same time every year. THEN the information and ratings were put together along with profitability, etc to determine what raises people would get.

      IMO if a company doesn’t think evaluating their staff is a priority, they can toss any motivational posters about excellence in the trash, they are fostering a culture of mediocrity. Ditto for lazy managers that simply give everyone decent marks across the board because it’s easier than having difficult conversations with underperforming subordinates and justifying larger increases for high achievers.

  26. Retail worker*

    This was the late 80’s-early 90’s when minimum wage was $3.80-4.25. Anyone making more than $6 an hour would only get a performance review and raise every 18 months, and even then they’d drag it out as long as possible so it ended up more like two years. I guess they had their reasons, the store closed entirely a few years later and the entire chain shut down eventually.

  27. Amorette Allison*

    I’ve worked for regularly scheduled reviews and never scheduled reviews. And NEVER have I ever seen a 10% raise. And I am a good employee. My current boss came in practically on his knees begging me to stay next year because I turned 65 this month.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      The only time I’ve seen someone get a 10% raise without a promotion was when we did a salary review and realized we were drastically underpaying someone who had been with us for a long time, such that they were making barely more than someone who’d just started and had a lot less experience. But we never give even half that much as an annual increase.

  28. Erica B*

    I’d be happy with any sort of raises like this. I work at a state University, am non-union, and basically only get raises when the university raises it’s base pay when minimum wage increases. My supervisor was nice enough to authorize an additional 5% increase last year due to the inflation craziness. First I got a raise not tied to a campus wide bump and Ive had this job 20 years.

  29. Ciela*

    LOL!!! I’ve been with the same company for over 23 years. I have had 4 or 5 “annual” reviews. My last one was scheduled to take place March 16, 2020. Still waiting for that one.

    I did actually get a 12.5% pay increase in the interim, when everyone else only got 5%. aaaaaand, I was asked not to share that with anyone else, as they felt people would up and quit over that. Well, I know the law, and I did share that info with co-workers whom I regularly discussed pay and working conditions. They did both quit, but not over me getting a raise. I got my raise about 2 months after having discussed pay and working conditions, when we all realized that I was only making $0.25 / hour more than 2 co-workers with 15-20 years LESS experience than me. And our pay scale is supposed to be based on seniority.

  30. Non non all the way home*

    Aww, I’m just imagining the people responsible for the incredibly generous raises at OP’s company hearing that someone is dissatisfied over a raise being a pay period late and feeling so disheartened.

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