SCS performance management regime 'falls short' on diversity, union says

Failure to address long-term pay issues also raised as Cabinet Office publishes 2024-25 framework

By Jim Dunton

04 Apr 2024

Civil service leaders' union the FDA has said performance management reporting requirements for senior officials still lack crucial diversity and inclusion data that could help drive change.

Last week the Cabinet Office published its 2024-25 performance management framework for the senior civil service, which is intended to shape the way departments monitor and categorise how well members of the SCS do their jobs.

The framework provides advice on how to categorise leaders in terms of performance ratings that rank them as "exceeding", "high performing" and "achieving" in relation to their set objectives – or as having only "partially met" agreed targets.

The 35-page document also reminds members of the SCS that they are required to make a commitment to delivering an element of the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy as part of their mandatory "people and capability" objective.

It adds that they should "lead on embedding the consideration of D&I in business-as-usual decision making", tackling bullying, harassment and dicrimination, and creating an inclusive culture.

However FDA assistant general secretary Lucille Thirlby said the Cabinet Office was not collecting enough data on D&I in relation to performance within the SCS itself.

"The FDA appreciates that the Cabinet Office keeps these processes under review, but there are still improvements to be made," she said.

"The SCS performance management reporting requirements fall short of commitments to deliver diversity and inclusion.

"The Cabinet Office’s annual data-collection exercise currently only requires data on the number and percentage of staff in each performance rating and the number of non-consolidated performance related payments paid out.

"This data doesn’t obviously reflect diversity outcomes – merely gathering data on numbers and percentages is wholly inadequate."

Thirlby said the current level of data collected in relation to SCS performance did not give the Cabinet Office insight on how under-represented categories of staff are faring.

"For example, there is no breakdown of how the number of women or ethnic minorities in each performance rating compares to their representation in the SCS as a whole," she said.

"This data would help the Cabinet Office to identify potential inequalities and assist individual departments to tackle pay gaps, for example those related to gender, age, disability, and race."

According to the most recent set of annual civil service statistics, women accounted for 47.9% of the SCS, up from 47.2% in 2022.

While the statistics, which were published in July last year, showed that 15.4% of civil servants are from an ethnic-minority background, the figure was just 10.5% in the SCS.

The SCS Performance Management Framework notes that all members of the SCS are entitled to be considered for multiple in-year non-consolidated awards of up to £5,000, provided that they are not subject to formal "poor perfromance" measures. However it adds that only SCS members rated as "exceeding" or "high performing" can be considered for end-of-year performance bonuses.

The FDA's Thirlby said the the lack of a broader pay strategy for members of the SCS was a hindrance to performance management.

“SCS performance management is limited in the absence of a coherent pay strategy," she said. "The government’s recent evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Body was thin, lacked ambition and failed to address long-term issues with SCS pay.

"While high dissatisfaction with pay and severe recruitment and retention issues remain, the performance of the SCS will be held back."

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