Cabinet Office commissions pay benchmarking study to give 'assurance and transparency' for top roles

Review will provide 2020 data to support senior and delegated grade recruitment for 47 departments

By Richard Johnstone

23 Sep 2020

The Cabinet Office has commissioned a salary benchmarking survey that will be used by departments to set pay rates for recruitment to senior civil service roles.

The department’s Civil Service Employee Policy (CSEP) unit has agreed the contract, valued at between £18,000 and £36,000, with consulting firm Korn Ferry. The deal will provide 2020 salary benchmarking figures that can be used in recruitment across government.

Departments are encouraged to use the Cabinet Office’s pay and reward benchmarking service when recruiting senior civil servants, with information also provided for recruitment at delegated grades where it is needed “to help understand the market position prior to recruiting”.

The salary data is used as “a level of assurance and transparency” for top civil service appointments, according to an announcement published on the government’s Contract Finder website.

“John Manzoni/Alex Chisolm [the former and current Cabinet Office permanent secretaries] and Rupert McNeil [the government chief people officer] have particular interest in roles advertised above the £150k threshold, therefore the additional layer of benchmarking in the recruitment process for senior roles provides a level of assurance and transparency.”

Forty-seven departments and agencies are currently signed up to pay for access to the policy unit’s services and support, including the benchmarking data, according to a letter of appointment for the contract.

The letter reveals that the unit is “seeing sustained high demand for benchmarking each year”. In 2018-19, 836 benchmark requests were reviewed, with 745 in 2019-20, for both SCS and delegated grades. Increasingly, the notice added, “we are seeing requests for specialist roles/professions”.

Based on an estimated cost of £500 if a department had to go to an external provider to benchmark a salary for an individual role, the central provision saves departments around £400,000, the Cabinet Office said.

The current salary database includes more than 750 organisations across all industries and sectors and over a million employees. “Extensive work” has been undertaken to map across their job levels to civil service grades to enable clear, accurate matching of roles, the department said.

The 2020 update will cover private, public and not-for-profit sectors across all industries, with Korn Ferry providing “mapping across from surveys job reference levels to civil service grades”, with base salary, allowances, bonuses and total remuneration all included.

The notice was published a few weeks after another showing the Government Office for Science had commissioned Korn Ferry to carry out a pay benchmarking study for specialist scientists and engineers.

Refreshed data will ensure the service can continue to support departments. “Without access to a high-quality benchmark survey, the authority would no longer be able to provide what is an essential part of their service offer to departments.”

The notice also hints that the data will be used to set pay rates for civil service jobs that are moved out of London, with a statement that the survey data will have “the ability to look at pay by location”.

Departments have been required to submit to the Treasury plans to move as many as 22,000 civil service jobs outside the capital, with more details expected in the upcoming Spending Review.

The notice stated: “CSEP will also be a key stakeholder as part of the governments’ future locations strategy with new government hubs being created to move roles out of London and into more national locations. CSEP will work with ministers to help implement the overall vision of this and will also work with departments on their future reward strategies.”

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