Capability-based pay must reflect 'productivity, efficiency and delivery', says Cabinet Office minister

Jeremy Quin says system can't be about rewarding officials for having more qualifications
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By Tevye Markson

20 Jul 2023

Capability-based pay for senior civil servants will focus on officials’ “proven ability to deliver” not qualifications, the minister for the Cabinet Office has said.

Speaking at a Policy Exchange event, Jeremy Quin said ministers and the civil service are ”determined to deliver” pay progression reform that has been in the works since 2018 and mooted for much longer.

Asked what the government is doing to financially reward increased capability in the civil service, Quin said capability-based pay is “one answer” that is being developed but needs to be value-for-money.

“I've got no problems with us paying civil servants more for being more productive, more capable of ensuring that the taxpayer gets a better deal,” Quin said.

“And I hope that what we develop over the course of the next year will help to achieve just that.”

But he said civil servants should be rewarded based on delivery, productivity and driving efficiency rather than how many qualifications they have.

“What [capability-based pay] can't be is ‘I have been on six courses therefore I'm worth more than the individual has been on three courses’. That doesn't work for anyone,” Quin said.

“It is an absolute priority, but what it should be tracking is people's ability to deliver on a project, the actual experience that they bring to bear and proven ability to deliver and their productivity.

“It’s hard to compare one task of the civil service with another but if you can do something with 10 people, rather than with 100 people, that is a net gain for taxpayer that should be reflected.”

The focus on productivity comes after chancellorJeremy Hunt last month ordered a cross-government review of public sector productivity with the aim of delivering "more for less”.

Capability-based pay, which aims to reward officials for developing skills and expertise so people don’t need to change jobs to get pay rises, has been in the works since 2018. Introducing it in the SCS, with a scheme across the civil service to follow later, was one of the 30 schemes that were planned for implementation in 2021 as part of the Declaration on Government Reform but has been delayed. 

Pilots were held between September 2021 and April 2022 to test the scheme, but the Cabinet Office said in June it was still investigating how the system will work.

“It remains the intention to implement a capability-based pay progression system as soon as is practicable”, the Cabinet Office said.

“We continue to explore approaches to doing so, recognising that rollout of capability-based pay must be properly resourced in terms of departmental and central support and have agreed and transparent funding within the overall SCS award.”

In a recent update to the pay remit for delegated grades in 2023-24, the government said it would commit to making the introduction of capability-based pay for the SCS a ministerial priority.

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