You are currently viewing What can I do if my pay is unfairly low?

What can I do if my pay is unfairly low? Youth shouldn’t respect the outdated standard of keeping your salary top secret when secrets protect inequality! Unions fail to ensure recruitment processes are fair for job applicants, particularly youth,  thereby allowing them to be manipulated into accepting low wages.

What can you do when you realised you accepted an unfair offer?

Reflect. What did I do Wrong?

In my 20’s I went to interviews without knowing anything about preparation and pay. The first time I interviewed for a post as an art teacher, I was so ignorant it is embarrassing. The headmaster asked what my pay expectation was, my answer was so low his offer was higher than my response!

Not only that, my public artworks had been in the papers and he’d seen the articles. When he mentioned this during the interview, all I said was a shy ‘thanks!‘ I had no idea how to argue my worth and take advantage of his interest and my achievements.

Emotional decisions

When my mom died, I remember finding a box containing her pay slips. She’d worked in retail as a saleslady, when she couldn’t take the long hours of standing anymore, she worked in the fitting rooms. I was humbled by how little she had earned and felt guilty about my own ambitions and determination.

It wasn’t long after that I interviewed for the teaching position. The pay I requested was less than what my mom had earned, I recall the pay offered being more than what she had ever earned. As I was still dealing with her death and ignorant about teacher pay, I may have sold myself low.

How we negotiate, who we believe we are and can be are all factors that are brought to the pay discussion. However, not all of them are relevant to what needs to be discussed. Don’t be emotional, be factual.

If you don’t do your research, you are going to be exploited and taken advantage of.  

The South African Constitution and the Competitions Act enshrines our right to pursue and negotiate the best possible economic opportunities.


  1. Take ownership, learn to negotiate
  2. Join a union
  3. Start looking for another job
  4. Unethical employers demand payslips, state upfront you are looking for an x% increase (10, 15, 30% etc) when you are unlawfully forced to hand it over
  5. Ask your employer for a raise on Thursday, you have less of a chance on Monday.
  6. Hasta la vista baby! Leave when you have a better offer.

Preparation Tips

  1. Go to the interview knowing what people get paid for the position you’re applying for
  2. Research  similar organisations
  3. Practice what to say in a negotiation 
  4. Stuck to the rule and always ask for more

Related Posts

Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

Tell us what's up!

What can I do if my pay is unfairly low?