Public sector pay freeze will hit those already earning less


NHS workers protest in the summer at being excluded from public sector pay rises
David Cliff/NurPhoto/PA Images

Public sector workers hit by a pay freeze are already paid less than their counterparts in private sector employers, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.

In November’s Spending Review, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a pay freeze for around 2.6 million public sector workers, including teachers and police.

The thinktank estimates that those workers affected by the freeze earn 7.9% less than their private sector counterparts once differences such as experience and location are taken into account.

The 2.9 million public sector workers who will receive a pay rise, including NHS frontline staff and those earning less than £24,000 a year, will receive 6.7% more than their private sector equivalents, it said.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average weekly pay for private sector workers was £555 in October, compared with £569 for government workers.

Hannah Slaughter, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, said the freeze would impact those who were “already experiencing pay penalties” compared with their equivalents in the private sector.

“Ministers must be mindful that while public and private sector pay do move in line with each other over the longer term, there are risks in making that adjustment next April, when the economic challenges of the pandemic will still be immense, and consumer confidence needs supporting,” she added.

Unions responded angrily to Sunak’s decision in November to implement a freeze for millions of public sector workers, claiming they would end up having to “pay for the recovery out of their own pockets”.

According to XpertHR’s latest round-up of pay awards, effective between 1 September and 30 November, the median public sector pay award was 2.5%, compared with 2% in the private sector.

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