'Broken' pay to blame for tech vacancies at Defra, union says

One in five Defra digital, data and technology roles are vacant, according to farming minister
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By Tevye Markson

19 Feb 2024

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs cannot fill its digital vacancies due to a broken pay system, the Prospect trade union has claimed.

Farming minister Mark Spencer revealed last week that one in five digital, data and technology roles are vacant. Of 1,285 (full-time equivalent) digital, data and tech jobs at Defra, 240 are unfilled, he said in answer to a parliamentary question.

Prospect said low pay is deterring qualified applicants from the roles.

“These problems are mainly attributable to poor starting salaries and lack of pay progression. Defra is simply unable to compete effectively in areas such as IT where there are private sector analogues for the skilled staff they are seeking to recruit," the union’s deputy general secretary, Garry Graham, said.

“Attempts to address this problem through the pay remit process have singularly failed in supporting recruitment into the department.”

Graham said Defra’s introduction of specific pay framework arrangements for the digital and data profession, which include pay uplifts to certain critical IT roles, have not succeeded in improving recruitment levels.

“It remains Prospect’s view that the current pay and remit process is broken and requires urgent action,” he added.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We recognise that there is an incredibly competitive landscape in IT careers and the challenges we face are being felt across both the public and private sectors. We have already made huge strides in improving our recruitment approach by promoting new apprenticeships and launching a new internal academy approach to boost skills.

“We continue to find new ways to attract the bright talent needed to fill our roles. This includes hiring experts with experience of recruiting in the technology space, utilising our pay framework, revamping our careers site as well as increasing the visibility of our roles on websites, such as LinkedIn. We will continue to assess what further action can be taken to improve recruitment into our IT teams.”

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