People Survey 2023: Civil servants happier over pay, but still much less satisfied with it than in 2021

New question, meanwhile, finds at least 44% of officials say that money worries have affected their ability to do their job
PCS pay strikes last year. Photo: Guy Bell/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

01 Mar 2024

Civil servants are happier about their pay following last year’s pay rise, but still less satisfied about it than they were two years ago.

The Cabinet Office published the Civil Service People Survey results for 2023 yesterday afternoon, which shows pay satisfaction is up by five percentage points (pp), with almost a third now happy about their pay.

Ministers last summer agreed an average pay award of 4.5-5% plus a one-off payment of £1,500 for officials below the senior civil service for 2023-24, and a 5.5-6.5% uptick for the SCS. This followed months of strikes and People Survey results in 2022 which showed satisfaction with pay had fallen to its lowest level since the poll began 14 years ago.

In 2023, 32% of civil servants said their pay adequately reflects their performance, compared to 27% of civil servants in 2022 and 38% in 2021. Similarly, overall satisfaction with pay and benefits has risen from 28% to 32%, having been at 38% in 2021.

Like in 2022, 65% of civil servants completed the 2023 survey, which was conducted in September and October.

The survey also finds that at least 44% of civil servants say that – over the previous 12 months – money worries have affected their ability to do their job. Of the officials responding to the new question, 56% said this had “seldom” or “never” happened in the last year.

Increased pay satisfaction is also shown in the small dip in civil servants saying they want to leave because of pay. Last year, 54% of officials who said they wanted out within 12 months cited pay as the reason. This has dropped to 50%. The proportion who want to exit the civil service within a year has stayed around the same, at 21%.

The poll’s benchmark employee-engagement index, which which reflects the proportion of staff who answer positively to statements about how motivated they feel and whether they would recommend their organisation as a good place to work, has slightly dipped but remains at around 64%.

Meanwhile, confidence in leadership and managing change has dropped for a third year running – now at 52% overall, compared to 58% in 2020. The biggest reduction within this section came in the proportion of officials feeling that “change is managed well” in their organisation, dropping from 38% to 34%. Starkly, this was at 43% in 2020.

On a more positive note, civil servants demonstrated increased satisfaction with their lives, with 67% giving scores of 7 out of 10 or higher in response to the question, “overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” compared to 64% a year ago.

Additionally, the proportion of officials saying they achieve a good balance between their work life and private life has now reached a high of 74%, an increase of 1pp and the ninth year in a row this score has gone up.

There was also a 4pp increase in civil servants saying they have a choice in deciding where to work, whether that’s in the office or at home, now at 83%.

Hybrid working has been one of the hottest topics in the civil service since the Covid-19 pandemic, with ministers regularly calling for officials to go to the office more often and most recently demanding that they spend 60% of the time in offices or working face-to-face.

Productivity and efficiency have also regularly been on the lips of ministers when discussing civil service reform. The survey results show, however, that only just over half (55%) of civil servants responding to the survey feel efficiency is pursued as a priority in their organisation – a 2pp drop compared to 2022 – while productivity has dipped for a second year in a row. In 2021, 70% said they felt they had been between 90 and 100% productive in the preceding month. In 2022, this fell to 69% and it is now at 66%.

There were more positive scores for collaboration, on the other hand, another big reform topic. Since the survey began asking officials – back in 2020 – how often they collaborate with officials in other government bodies to achieve common goals, scores have improved each year and 37% now say they do so “always”, “often” or “some of the time”.

Finally, there were also notable scores in the survey in the following areas:

Action on survey results: 38% feel effective action has been taken on the results of the previous year’s survey, up 3pp. Last year, MPs said departments should make better use of Civil Service People Survey results.

Civil Service Code: 70% understand how to raise a concern under the code, up 2pp and at its highest since the survey began – back in 2008 just 44% knew how to do so.

Long Covid: 8% said they have Long Covid, compared to 11% last year.

Health and wellbeing: The survey featured new questions on this topic, with results showing: 59% feel their organisation provides good support for employee health, wellbeing and resilience; and 58% discuss their personal wellbeing and or work-related stress with your manager every week/month.


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