Civil servants ‘risk being left behind on pay’ as NHS staff receive up to 29% wage hike

Prospect says ending of 1% public sector pay cap is welcome but highlight that the civil service has fallen behind the rest of the public sector

Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

22 Mar 2018

A Whitehall union has said that civil servants must not get left behind on public sector pay after a deal was agreed to give most NHS staff a cap-busting 6.5% rise over three years – and some staff an increase of 29%.

The deal for NHS staff, which was confirmed yesterday, will see most staff receive at least a 3% pay increase from next month, with the remainder of the increase spread across the following two years alongside a lump sum payment in 2019.

Negotiations on an agreement, which breaks the 1% pay cap that has been in place across the public sector since 2012, have been ongoing since last year and were revealed by Philip Hammond in November’s Budget.


The chancellor pledged to provide extra money for such a deal, and it has been confirmed that an estimated £4.2bn would be provided to fund the deal from Treasury reserves.

However, other parts of the public sector, including the Senior Salaries Review Body for senior civil servants, have been told that increases above the 1% limit must be paid for by improvements in public sector productivity. Two other cap-busting deals – the 2% pay boost for police officers in 2017-18 and the 1.7% rise for prison officers – are being funded from within existing budgets.

Responding to the NHS deal Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham, whose union represents specialists in the civil service, said the lifting of the cap for NHS staff was welcome, but added: “If the civil service and the wider public sector are left behind then they will not be able to recruit and retain the skilled staff they need to help deliver Brexit and other government policies."

He highlighted that independent evidence points to the fact that pay in the civil service lags significantly behind not only the private sector but also other areas of the public sector.

"The cap now needs to be lifted across the board and the government must urgently act to put funds in place to ensure that all staff are treated fairly," he said.

The details of the NHS deal mean that every NHS worker in England is to be paid £17,460 from 1 April 2018, which corresponds to at least £8.93 per hour. Under the terms of the deal, which will now be voted on by union members, staff currently paid below the top of their pay bands would receive between 9% and 29% over the three years, although this top increase applies to less than 1% of the workforce. For staff already at the top of their band, most would get 6.5% between April 2018 and April 2020. All but the very highest paid staff will get 3% in April 2018, 1.7% and a 1.1% lump sum in April 2019, and 1.67% from April 2020.

This means the pay of the lowest earning NHS staff, such as porters, cleaners and hospital caterers, will increase substantially, according to NHS Employers. These staff will see their basic pay increase by 15% over three years, with the lowest full-time rate of pay to rise by over £2,000 to £17,460 in 2018/19 for over 100,000 staff.

Basic pay will increase over the three years by 22% (£4,842) for a Band 5 nurse who started this year. The increase is 16% (£3,819) over the three years for a nurse with two years’ experience and 6.5% (£1,869) if they’re at the top of the pay band.

The pay deal is needed to both boost wages and turn the tide on staffing problems, according to the umbrella group.

Sara Gorton, the head of health at trade union Unison and the lead pay negotiator for the NHS unions, added that seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living have meant significant financial hardship for staff and their families.

“The agreement means an end at last to the government’s self-defeating and unfair 1% pay cap,” she said. “It won’t solve every problem in the NHS, but would go a long way towards making dedicated health staff feel more valued, lift flagging morale, and help turn the tide on employers’ staffing problems.”

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