Returner to Work Career Advice

How to Negotiate Salary after a Career Break

John Smith

Negotiating salaries can be challenging even for the most seasoned professionals. For those who are getting back to work after a career break, bargaining for a higher salary can be particularly difficult. This is because in most cases career returners are so keen to get back into the workplace that they underestimate their own worth and accept the first offer they receive. This is counterproductive and can actually impede your professional development.

1. Do your research

According to a recent report, people significantly underestimate the market rate for similar roles. The report maintains that this keeps people from asking for higher salaries than what they’re offered and this is turn disadvantages the lowest earners. The researchers behind this report further suggest that ‘if workers were more aware of salary disparities, at least 10% of low-paying jobs would simply not be viable at current pay rates.’

One of the steps before starting a salary negotiation is to do your research. Find out what the current pay range is for the role you’re applying to. There are a number of sources you can use for this including Glassdoor, Payscale and You should also consider reaching out to your networks within the industry peers to find out what the salary range for a similar role is in their companies.  

Remember the salary range for a role can vary – for example – from £40,000 to £50,000. This is because salaries are based on a number of factors like the size of the company, the location, etc. Use your research and then decide on a number that you’re happy with.

2. Consider the perks

An important thing to consider whilst negotiating pay is that your CTC or cost to company is not just  a salary figure. Employers will usually offer a range of other perks and benefits in additional to your salary. Find out what your new employer’s offering and if that works for you. For example–

These are important considerations especially for those returning to work after a career break. For example – if you have childcare options to consider as you plan a return to work, a company that offers remote working or hybrid working would be a great fit.

All of the above factors make up your total compensation package. You should review the benefits on offer and then decide what’s important for you.

3. Know your worth

According to a study by PWC, three out of five women returning to the workforce will move to a lower skill role. A lower skill role immediately reduces their earnings by a third. Regardless of your reasons to take a career break, and also the duration of your break, it’s important to know your own worth and the unique experience and knowledge you bring to a role.

As someone returning to work after a career break, it can be tempting to accept the first offer you get – even if the salary and role are well below your previous role. Many returners treat this as an opportunity cost to get back into the workforce. However, accepting a lower-level role or salary is unlikely to be a good fit in the long run.

Remember, your value is determined by your qualifications, previous experience and transferrable skills among other things.  

Whilst negotiating your salary, focus on your key skills and the value they would add to the company. Don’t apologise for your career break. Instead, talk about any transferrable skills or additional qualifications you may have completed during this time. This could be anything from an online course to volunteering at a local charity.

In case the employer is unable to meet your salary expectations, but you still want to pursue the opportunity, suggest a three or six-month salary review. This shows that you’re willing to be flexible and find solutions to work together.

Don’t ask, don’t get.

4. Avoid sharing salary history

According to a report by the Fawcett Society, 58% of women and 54% of men fear being offered a lower pay when employers ask about their salary history. End Salary History is a joint campaign by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Fawcett Society to call on employers to stop asking candidates how much they were paid in their last jobs.

The move to ban salary history stemmed from the unconscious bias that job seekers face when disclosing their previous earnings to employers. 21 US states or governments that have already banned salary history questions to some degree. with calls for other governments to issue similar bans.

For those returning to work after a break, it’s a good idea to refrain from mentioning your previous salary. Assuming that you may have been out of work for some time, the pay range for your role could have changed significantly. By divulging how much you got paid at your last role, you run the risk of being ‘pegged’ at the same salary level and you inadvertently compromise your negotiations.

5. Keep looking

It’s easier to negotiate with you have another offer. Continue to explore other options even after you’ve received an initial offer from an employer. Perhaps ask the hiring manager for some time to deliberate over your offers. It’s good to let an employer know that you’re interviewing with other companies. Knowing that other companies want to hire you will make an employer more amenable to negotiating your terms.

Also, the more employers you meet, the more confident you get in asking for what you want. It also gives you a better idea of what other employers are willing to offer.

Tips before you go

Always set a walk-away point for yourself. This could be a specific figure or a combination of your salary and benefits package.

Where possible negotiate in-person so you can engage in real-time.

It’s a good idea to role-play a negotiation scenario with a friend or even in front of the mirror so you can practise what you say, how you say it and your body language.

Be confident. Remember to believe in what you’re saying because if you can’t convince yourself that you’re worth it, an employer won’t be convinced either.

Are you interested in training for a career in business or tech? You can do so on our award-winning Returners Programme.