Civil service pay: Senior officials should be rewarded for productivity and delivery, minister says

Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin backs plans to expand the use of capability-based compensation – already a tool available for filling criticial tech roles – so as to reflect ‘ability to deliver’

Capability-based pay for senior civil servants will focus on officials’ “proven ability to deliver” rather than on qualifications, the minister for the Cabinet Office has said.

Jeremy Quin said ministers and the civil service are ”determined to deliver” government-wide pay progression reform that has been in the works since 2018, and mooted for much longer.

A degree of capability-based compensation is already available for the digital, data and technology profession where – subject to an approved business case – departments can use DDaT’s dedicated pay framework to obtain additional allowances in order to recruit critical roles or those that are difficult to fiull.

Asked what the government is doing to financially reward increased capability in the civil service, Quin said capability-based pay is “one answer” that is being developed but needs to be value-for-money.


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“I’ve got no problems with us paying civil servants more for being more productive, more capable of ensuring that the taxpayer gets a better deal,” Quin said at an event held this week by think tank Policy Exchange. “And I hope that what we develop over the course of the next year will help to achieve just that.”

But he said civil servants should be rewarded based on delivery, productivity and driving efficiency rather than how many qualifications they have.

“What [capability-based pay] can’t be is ‘I have been on six courses therefore I’m worth more than the individual has been on three courses’. That doesn’t work for anyone,” Quin said. “It is an absolute priority, but what it should be tracking is people’s ability to deliver on a project, the actual experience that they bring to bear and proven ability to deliver and their productivity. It’s hard to compare one task of the civil service with another but if you can do something with 10 people, rather than with 100 people, that is a net gain for taxpayer that should be reflected.”

Capability-based pay, which aims to reward officials for developing skills and expertise so people don’t need to change jobs to get pay rises, has been in the works since 2018. Introducing it in the SCS, with a scheme across the civil service to follow later, was one of the 30 schemes that were planned for implementation in 2021 as part of the Declaration on Government Reform but has been delayed.

Pilots were held between September 2021 and April 2022 to test the scheme, but the Cabinet Office said in June it was still investigating how the system will work.

“It remains the intention to implement a capability-based pay progression system as soon as is practicable”, the Cabinet Office said. “We continue to explore approaches to doing so, recognising that rollout of capability-based pay must be properly resourced in terms of departmental and central support and have agreed and transparent funding within the overall SCS award.”

In a recent update to the pay remit for delegated grades in 2023-24, the government said it would commit to making the introduction of capability-based pay for the SCS a ministerial priority.

Also unveiled by Quin at the event was a scheme to allow employees from major tech firms to join government departments on secondment, as well as a commitment to bring in 500 new DDaT professionals this financial year via a dedicated apprenticeship programme.

His comments came a few days after the publication of annual data from government’s Review Body on Senior Salaries that showed that the DDaT profession lost almost one of five of its senior workforce to the private sector in the space of a year – despite offering the highest salaries in Whitehall.

The body’s 2023 report also revealed that a special programme was created during the year to help address the digital profession’s high turnover and reduce reliance on contractors by enabling departments to increase compensation packages for the most highly-prized DDaT roles by as much as £45,000.

Tevye Markson

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