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The government is looking to improve its ability to attract and retain professionals across digital, data and technology functions by boosting the salaries of some senior roles.
According to a document submitted to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB), the Cabinet Office has identified a small number of roles in areas where the government needs to “tailor its approach to compete effectively with the external market” for senior, specialist skills.
Under the plans, specialist pay will initially be introduced to a small number of senior roles under “more mature professions” – so digital, data and technology (DDaT) and finance.
Seven roles from a total of 28 under the DDaT framework have been identified as eligible for the salary overhaul, which is intended to encourage high-performing professionals at deputy director and director level to apply for roles in the public sector and and stay in them for longer.
According to the plans submitted, the majority of civil service professions would fall under group A, which covers “civil service-wide professions”. Specialist pay arrangements would apply for roles falling into categories deemed “market-facing” (group B) and “niche” (group C).
Market-facing roles have enduring skills that are highly sought-after with higher pay rates. The proposed criteria for recruitment includes evidence of market pressures resulting in the government’s inability to recruit for such roles and retain that type of expertise to deliver against its priorities.
The submission to the SSRB noted that not all professions would be market facing and, within those that are, not all roles would be eligible for specialist pay.
Niche or department-specific roles would be defined as a specialist working in fields where the necessary skills are very rare. Proposed criteria for recruitment would be evidence of a limited pool of potential candidates, which would require an individual reward offer.
Access to skills in the foreseeable future will continue to be a concern across the public and private sector, with most UK organisations saying finding appropriate talent is a challenge, a recent study by Barclaycard found.
This is worsened by factors such as continued uncertainty caused by Brexit delays, with over half of organisations saying they were unsure if they would be able to find enough staff with the required technical expertise once the UK is out of the EU.
Specialist pay is expected to be part of “a long-term pay solution rather than a tactical fix”, according to the plans submitted to the SSRB. Business cases will also be required to set out recruitment problems caused by current pay rates.
According to the proposed approach, specialist pay would be applicable only while professionals remain in a relevant specialist role and career path, or if they are performing a time-limited role. If they were to return to a non-specialist role, salaries would have to reflect the change.
Such a structure would require “significant cultural change” across departments to ensure consistent application, the report noted.
The debate over pay packages for high-level roles in government IT is an ongoing dilemma, illustrated by the search for a government chief information security officer last year, where candidates seemed to be unimpressed by the salary offered for such a senior job.
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