What can the public sector learn from 2018's key takeouts?

Employer advice

2018 was a year of unprecedented change; change which often surprised and not necessarily delighted us. The public sector has seen its fair share of change and upheaval too. This article explores some of the key impacts on the public sector. Specifically, we're looking at the trends in public sector employment, pay rises, and dealing with the gender pay gap.

Trends in public sector employment

After years of austerity, it seems the tide may be turning. According to the Office for National Statistics, there has been steady growth in public sector employment in the year 2017/18, as shown on the line graph below. As of June 2018, 16.5% of UK workers were employed in the public sector, with over 3 million in central Government, and over 2 million in local government. That's a total of 5.34 million public sector employees, and an increase of 34,000 since the year before. As well as central Government recruiting more than 100,000 extra civil servants – partly for Brexit planning, there's also been growth in key public professions such as the Police, public sector education, and in the area of public administration, including regulation, inspection, and the courts. What's more, 1.65 million people are now employed in the NHS, which is the highest figure on record.

Pay rises for one million public sector workers

Back in July, the biggest pay rise the public sector has seen in 10 years was announced. It's set to impact around one million workers. The increase was seen as a bid to boost staff recruitment and retention as well as improve morale in the public sector. The announcement came in addition to the other benefits public sector workers have access to; competitive pension schemes, as well as performance and progression pay. The move also confirms the scrapping of the 1% pay cap last year. In retrospect, are these benefits making the public sector a more appealing place to work? Is it contributing to employee satisfaction?

Dealing with the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap has been on the radar for a while, and it is now compulsory for companies with 250 or more employees to publish their salary data. Atomik Research carried out a study of the impact on organisations. They researched 2,000 UK adult workers, and found that 55% said they would be less inclined to work for a public sector body with a wide gender pay disparity. In fact, 68% of Atomik's respondents believe the public sector has a responsibility to lead the way in closing the gender pay gap.

So what can you do about it?

For future recruitment, the public sector relies on the trust of their employees and the general public. The key to increasing attraction is to solidify a positive reputation.  You need to be transparent about the salaries you pay. If not, it damages the reputation of your organisation, and reduces the desire to work for you. It's recommended to submit your report before the deadline. This shows you are compliant with the law, and that you are happy to be transparent. This can lead to an increase in trust and reputation. Even if your report shows a gender pay gap, also show how you will reduce the gap and publicise your achievements in doing so. That way, you can present it as an opportunity to attract candidates.

This approach will show you to be innovative, embracing change, and breaking public sector stereotypes – all characteristics which will appeal to future employees.