ONS report flags upturn in civil service headcount

Annual survey says staff numbers rose by 0.3% in year to April and points to narrowing gender pay gap


By Jim Dunton

20 Jul 2017

Official statistics show the home civil service's ranks swelled by more than 1,000 in the year to April, with a much bigger increase in the number of full-time staff accompanied by a reduction in part-time officials.

Just-released Office for National Statistics figures show a total workforce of 419,399, up 0.3% on the previous year. But the figure still represents a 20% decrease on 2008 levels.

The Institute for Government said increasing staff numbers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – which will be particularly affected by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union – suggested the overall rise reflects recruitment to prepare for Brexit.

However, it added that overall civil service numbers were still only just above their lowest level since the Second World War.


The ONS said year-on-year the number of full-time civil servants had increased by 1.4% – or around 4,400, while the number of part-time staff had fallen by 3.3% to 98,000.

According to the PCS union, the civil service’s largest representative body, the latest figures mask a rebalancing of staff from administrative roles to senior ones.

It pointed to a reduction of more than 4,000 staff in lower-paid administrative roles over the 2016-17 period and an increase in numbers at higher grades.

The ONS said that the Senior Civil Service headcount had increased by 155, or 3.1% over the period, while there were 1,867 more officials at grade 6 and 7 – an increase of 4.7% – and 1,213 more staff at senior and higher executive officer level, an increase of 1.2%.

It said that as of 31 March, 35.7% of the home civil service worked at the administrative responsibility level, down from 36.8%  the previous year.

Just under one in 10 staff (9.9%) were at grade 6 or 7, while 1.2% of employees were at Senior Civil Service level – up from 9.4% and 1.1% respectively.

Elsewhere, the survey found a 0.8 percentage point increase in the proportion of staff describing themselves as having a disability, with 10.0% of civil servants who made a declaration about their disability status answering positively.

On ethnic diversity, the ONS figures showed 11.6% of civil servants were from a minority background, an increase of 0.5 percentage points on the 2016 proportion. However there was no change in the 7.0% declared ethnic minority representation within the Senior Civil Service.

Ethnic minority representation at all other responsibility levels showed a proportional increase over the year.

IfG head of data and transparency Gavin Freeguard said the Senior Civil Service’s lack of diversity progress had come “despite initiatives like the Talent Action Plan and senior race champions”.

The ONS figures showed a general narrowing of the gender pay gap over the 12 months, decreasing from 13.6% to 12.7% when measured by comparing male and female median pay, and with part-time pay being converted to full-time equivalent salaries.

The gender pay gap for full time staff decreased from 12.0% to 11.0%, but the gap in the Senior Civil Service increased from 3.7% to 4.2%.

On pay in general, the ONS figures showed the median gross salary of civil servants was £25,900 at the end of March, an increase of £550, however it pointed to the proportional decrease in lower-ranked staff as one driver for the rise.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the structural change in the makeup of the civil service meant the median increase was something that would not be felt in pay packets.

“After seven years of Tory cuts, the civil service is nowhere near fully staffed and, as well as the damaging impact on public services, we fear departments are seriously underprepared for Brexit,” he said.

“The fact that some departments are now employing more civil servants just underlines the point that too many have been cut since 2010 but instead of doing more to reverse the decline the government has continued to slash ministerial budgets.”

Read the most recent articles written by Jim Dunton - MPs call for new panel to probe 'highly confidential' public spending




Education HR Leadership
Share this page