public pay cap lifted but how generous is whitehall?

Finally, public sector workers are getting a pay rise. Seven years after the 1% pay cap was introduced, the government has answered cries to abolish it by announcing the limit will be removed.

Starting with police officers and prison guards - who have been earmarked a 1% and 1.7% rise respectively - other government departments will be given freedom over remuneration for doctors, nurses, teachers and others paid from the public purse.

Public pay rise or real terms cut?

Public sector pay is an emotive topic because it affects workers in front line services we love, trust and depend upon. The jobs they do - in our care homes, hospitals, schools and prisons - impact our lives in some way on a daily basis.

That’s why in 2013 - two years after a pay freeze was introduced - there was outcry and protest when David Cameron limited public sector wage hikes to 1%. With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that for many the rise actually resulted in a real terms pay cut.

Whitehall watching its wallet

At the moment it’s not clear how many of the 5m public sector workers in the UK will get a pay rise and, crucially, how much it will be. With inflation running at close to 3%, you can already see why some are already asking for a rise in line with that.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, pegging pay rises to inflation will reportedly cost the Treasury more than £4bn a year by 2020-21 and with that in mind - and don't forget we have a deficit to cut and national debt to pay down - it remains to be seen how generous Whitehall will be. 

Special type of worker

Number 10s axing of the pay cap came the same dayan influential body said primary teachers’ pay decreased by 12% in the ten years to 2015. Other professionals experiencing shrinkage like that would be out the door, but teachers - as well as public sector workers in general - are a special type and are usually motivated by what they do rather than how much they do it for.

- Victoria Short is managing director of Randstad Public Services.

 

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