Headcount, pay gaps & progress on diversity: 8 things we learned from the latest civil service stats

Written by Jim Dunton on 6 October 2016 in Analysis
Analysis

As fresh Office for National Statistics data shines a light on headcount, salary and diversity within the civil service, CSW's Jim Dunton analyses the key findings

The civil service has shrunk in size by one-fifth over the past eight years, although senior grades are growing in number, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

Just-published employment figures for the year to March 31 provide a snapshot of change in the service, showing areas of contraction, progress toward diversity targets, and departmental pay differentials. Here are eight things the ONS figures reveal:

1) The downward trend in staffing continues

The civil service headcount was 418,343 as of March 31 this year, down 3.6% - or 15,469 – on the previous year. The proportional reduction in part-time staff was even more marked, however, declining by 8.4% to 101,551. Over the longer term, civil service headcount has decreased by 20.3% since 2008.


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2) The brunt of belt-tightening is at administrative level

More than half of all employees who left the civil service were from the administrative responsibility level, where the headcount reduced by 14,069, or 8.4%. Conversely, numbers increased at the highest levels of the civil service. During the year the Senior Civil Service expanded its numbers by 59, or 1.2%, while the Grade 6 and 7 responsibility level immediately below increased its headcount by 432, or 1.1%.

3) Some areas of the UK are harder-pressed than others

All regions except Wales saw a decrease in the number of civil servants, with the West Midlands marking the steepest decline – 3,260, or 10.9%. The South East saw its headcount of civil servants drop by 8.3% or 3,560. Wales saw its staff headcount increase by 1.2% to 31,170.

4) The highest departmental median salary is three times the lowest

Median gross annual earnings in the civil service were £25,350, excluding overtime or one-off bonuses. The figure is an increase of £370 – or 1.5% – on the previous year. In terms of individual departments and agencies, the Scottish Public Pensions Agency and the Student Awards Agency for Scotland had the joint lowest median pay, at £19,180.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales – Estyn – had the highest median salary, at £63,350. The highest recorded departmental salary was £287,500 at Defence Equipment and Support, which is part of the Ministry of Defence. Tony Douglas became chief executive of the arms length body in December 2015 after a stint at the helm of Abu Dhabi Airports.

5) The highest pay package is 11 times the civil service median

Because its top pay rate is slightly more than 9.4 times its median earnings of £30,420, DES scored the civil service’s highest differential between regular salary and highest reward.

The smallest differential was at the Office for Budget Responsibility, where the highest pay level is 1.6 times the departmental median of £46,660. The Office for National Statistics gave an overall differential figure of 11.3 for the entire civil service, reflecting the service's £25,350 median salary as a proportion of the DES top rate.

6) The pay gap between men and women has widened

The ONS said that dividing median pay for male employees and female employees revealed an increase in the gap to 13.6% as of March 2016, compared with last year's figure of 12%.

It said the figure depended on converting salaries for part-time workers to a full-time equivalent rate, but that the overall gender pay gap for full time staff had increased from 9.0% to 12.0%. Meanwhile, the Senior Civil Service level gender pay gap fell from 4.9% to 3.7% over the year. 

7) The service is continuing to make progress towards its diversity goals

The proportion of staff who said they had a disability rose by 0.3% to 9.2%, although just 4.7 % of the Senior Civil Service identified themselves as disabled, in contrast with 10.9% of staff at the administrative responsibility level. Meanwhile, 11.2% of the civil service identified themselves as being from an ethnic minority, an increase of 0.5% since March 2015. And women now make up more than 40% of the Senior Civil Service for the first time.

8) SCS staff are more likely to be openly gay or bisexual than lower ranks

The proportion of staff in the senior civil service who describe themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual is almost twice as large as for the civil service as a whole. According to the figures, 2.6% of the SCS describe themselves as gay or lesbian, compared with 1.4% of the entire service. 

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