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SSRB 2020: Pay and pay progression

The key elements of this year’s recommendations for distribution of the 2% pay bill are:

Priority 1: 1% of the SCS pay bill should be allocated and ring-fenced to address problems arising from the lack of a pay progression system for those members who are at the lower end of their pay range and who have not seen significant pay rises in recent years and address other anomalies.

This should be distributed to SCS members dependent on:

  • demonstration of increased effectiveness and deepened expertise; and
  • their position in the pay range

Priority 2: Increase the pay band minima from April 2020 to the following levels:

  • Pay band 1: £71,000 (currently £70,000)
  • Pay band 2: £93,000 (currently £92,000)
  • Pay band 3: £120,000 (currently £115,000)

Priority 3: That all eligible SCS members not benefitting from the increase to the minima should receive a 1 per cent pay award. Those SCS members who benefit by less than 1 per cent from the minima increase, should receive an additional consolidated pay award to total 1 per cent.

Further Recommendations

  • That the government invests in and implements a credible, robust and simple pay progression system as a priority in order to reduce churn and maximise the productivity and effectiveness of the SCS.
  • That the Cabinet Office should make incremental steps in reducing the maxima this year
  • That the government invests in and implements a credible, robust and simple pay progression system as a priority in order to reduce churn and maximise the productivity and effectiveness of the SCS.
  • The government accepts the SSRB’s recommendations in full, but will continue to delay work on reducing the maxima until the capability based pay progression system is in place.

FDA response: “There is more to be done”

Whilst we welcome the SSRB analysis, considerations and recommendations, we believe the government needs to put its foot to the pedal, allocate greater funding, invest in its senior leaders and resolve the long-term issues for the SCS on lack of pay progression and low confidence in the performance management system and morale. 

In its evidence submitted to the SSRB in March 2020, the government reinforced its message about a long-term strategic vision and reiterated the need for an SCS that:

  • Has leaders with stronger professional ‘anchors’ and specialist skills.
  • Continues to grow world class capability and functional expertise internally while recruiting and retaining specialist skills externally.
  • Provides greater reward for higher performers and those who develop capability by remaining in post for longer, enabling greater depth of experience, confidence and leadership skills.

The FDA believes the government is currently some way away from delivering the strategic vision.

Pay progression

The SSRB recognises that the absence of a pay progression system is the highest priority and “means that staff are not generally rewarded for increasing effectiveness, developing capability and deepening expertise over time. This, and the lack of proactive management of people’s movement through the system, have been driving high levels of churn within the SCS”

The SSRB urges the government not to lose momentum or focus in achieving this objective.

The SSRB report sets out a Summary of Cabinet Office proposals for capability-based pay progression. The underpinning principles of the model are: 

  • Enabling greater diversity in the SCS.
  • Rewarding the development of professional skills and competence.
  • Rewarding experience and high performance.
  • Enabling and rewarding the development of leaders of whole systems.

The framework will contain two dimensions for assessing capability: professional and leadership, both set within the context of experience.

Each of the above dimensions will contain three levels of assessment: developing; competent; and expert.

Each pay range will have a target end point which would be what an individual could realistically expect their pay to reach. An individual’s progression towards the target salary would be determined by their line manager’s assessment against the two dimensions (as above) coupled with the overall funding available for capability-based pay progression within the given year.

The intended design of the model is that at pay band 1 level, there will be a greater emphasis on professional and technical capability. For pay bands 2 and 3, there will be a shift to a more subjective leadership criteria.

The Cabinet Office states it is working towards full implementation of the capability-based pay progression in April 2021 and that cost modelling was being carried out and a cross-government business case, aligned to the Spending Review, was being considered.

The FDA agrees with SSRB concern that developing multiple, profession-based capability frameworks that operate within centrally operated guidance could prove to be overly complex.
SSRB Recommendation:

“That the government invests in and implements a credible, robust and simple pay progression system as a priority in order to reduce churn and maximise the productivity and effectiveness of the SCS.”

FDA response:

The FDA has consistently made the case to the SSRB of the need for a meaningful pay progression mechanism. The failure to address this over many years has led to the evidenced anomalies in the system. We welcome the SSRB and Cabinet Office focus on delivering a robust system.

The FDA and Prospect have met with the Cabinet Office during the last year to discuss the development of the system. However, we are yet to see the detail of how the proposed capability-based approach will operate, the pay modelling and costings. The FDA is currently concerned about how the progression pay structure will work and how it will address the fundamental issues, when it is proposed to enable each profession to set its own framework.

We note the focus is now on simplifying the model and agree with the SSRB “that any system needs to be accessible and understandable to those who are expected to manage it”.

There is more to be done…

We welcome the commitment by the Cabinet Office to the implementation of capability-based pay progression from April 2021. It is vital that they engage with us on the development of pay progression over these crucial few months.

The FDA believes the SSRB is right to highlight that if the timing of the Spending Review is pushed back, and in the context of greater general pressure on public finances following the government response to Covid-19, the concern is that the Cabinet Office may not be able to secure the necessary funding to implement the new system for the 2021 pay round. The SSRB states, “successful implementation of pay progression from within the annual pay award envelope will be challenging, if not impossible” .

Next steps

We have set up monthly meetings with the Cabinet Office through the summer months to engage with them on capability-based pay progression and performance management.


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