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SSRB 2020: Morale

The SSRB concludes that in terms of motivation, there continues to be high levels of engagement and members are driven by a sense of public duty. However, there are signs that high levels of dissatisfaction with the lack of pay progression, an unsatisfactory performance management regime, and high workloads may be affecting morale.

“Although there are indications of fragile morale in the SCS, this does not currently appear to be affecting recruitment, which remains stable overall with no critical problems. However, there remain concerns from those in the internal feeder groups about whether the increase in salary from grade 7 or 6 to pay band 1 is worthwhile, given the significant additional accountability and changes to terms and conditions such as a lack of overtime and a reduction in flexible working opportunities. This could result in a reduction of the recruitment pool from which future SCS members can be appointed.”

The data provided by government also shows the reasons for people leaving as identified by the exit interviews. Career development remains the key reason for people leaving the SCS. However, in the latest figures, ‘how fairly treated, respected or valued at work’ was cited as the second most common reason for leaving, ahead of ‘comparative pay’.

The SSRB discussions with members of the remit group, the following issues were raised in relation to the morale and motivation of the SCS:

  • Experienced managers were managing less experienced individuals who were paid more than them. This was due to the lack of pay progression, the pay overlap between grades 6 and 7 and SCS pay band 1 and the fact that external candidates were often recruited on higher salaries than existing members of the SCS. (NB. Just over 4,000 non-SCS civil servants were paid more than the pay band 1 minimum as at 31 March 2019, which means that a considerable proportion of those in pay band 1 were managing people paid more than them.)
  • The absence of pay progression and many years of low pay awards meant that many individuals who had been in the SCS for a number of years were still near the bottom of the pay scale.
  • There were increasingly heavy workloads with a relentless expectation of working evenings and weekends for no additional pay.
  • Although individuals thought they could probably earn higher salaries in jobs outside the civil service, the majority were committed to remaining in the SCS as they felt they were doing interesting and worthwhile roles in public service.
  • A number of individuals noted the opportunities to move to other areas of the public sector, such as the NHS or local government, which would allow them to continue working in public service while earning a higher salary.

FDA response

The SSRB report reflects consistent survey results from our SCS members. Particularly in relation to the factors affecting morale, including workloads, SCS pay, fair treatment/feeling valued at work, and working hours. These are all indicators of an SCS under pressure. We raised in our oral and written evidence the pressing issue of excessive uncompensated hours/working hours. Whilst it is not within the SSRB remit to make a recommendation on this, we are grateful that they acknowledge that this issue is affecting morale of the SCS and feeder groups.

We will be seeking urgent engagement with the Cabinet Office on excessive uncompensated working hours and morale.


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