Irish government commission calls for new pay review body

By on 25/10/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Department of Expenditure and Reform says top public servants in Ireland are underpaid by as much as 30%. (Image courtesy: Moersche/Pixabay).

Ireland’s Public Service Pay Commission has called for the re-establishment of a dedicated review body to examine pay in the civil and public service, after a government report found that pay caps that apply to top-level staff are leading to staff shortages.

The commission was responding to a report by the Department of Expenditure and Reform, which recommends that public servants no longer be subject to the pay caps introduced following the global financial crash.

The commission said it supports the department’s view that the current approach “is neither desirable nor sustainable”, and argued that the Review Body on Higher Remuneration – which, it said, provided objective, evidence-based assessments to inform pay policy for senior grades between 1969 and 2009 – should be re-constituted. It said the review body could “examine how pay, pensions, and other elements of the remuneration package impact on recruitment and retention”, and consider how to attract the best candidates to apply for top-level posts.

The Department of Expenditure and Reform report says evidence suggests that “a number of factors, including the legacy of the caps and limits imposed during the financial crisis, the phased unwinding of financial emergency pay reductions for senior public servants, growing complexity and public scrutiny of roles, and an emerging pay deficit with the private sector, are combining to present challenges to recruitment and retention at senior levels in the public service”.

The report highlights the government’s introduction in 2011 of a pay ceiling of €200,000 (US$223,000) for senior public servants, and suggests that top public servants – of which there are around 1,000 in Ireland – are underpaid by as much as 30%.

Difficulty attracting the right calibre of external applicants

The report also notes that there’s been a fall in the proportion of applicants from the private sector who succeed in securing jobs. “This raises the concern that, as well as a decline in the percentage of applications from outside the civil and public service in recent years, senior posts may not be attracting the right calibre of external applicants,” it said.

It adds that pay rates are currently being determined on an ad-hoc basis, without a consistent and objective policy support structure, in an effort to attract candidates for certain roles.

“Without an objective mechanism for pay determination at these levels, it will become more and more difficult to effectively manage senior leadership remuneration and provide an adequate remuneration package to attract and retain top talent,” the report says.

Public expenditure and reform minister Paschal Donohoe said he has instructed his officials to evaluate the commission’s proposal to re-establish the review body, adding that his department is engaging with parties “on a possible mechanism that could form part of a future pay agreement”.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

One Comment

  1. Bruce Heslip says:

    Allowing the pay cap for executives of top level staff in government to be removed sparks feelings of elitism. Pay inequity between the lower/mid level payed employees and the senior/executive class might be considered one of the factors that gave rise to the union movement in the last century. Incentivizing the employment of potential senior staff with higher pay beyond that available for that individual in the private sector provides for a culture where money is the driving factor for senior public servants. It would help generate a feeling of them vs us amongst the workforce, a source of tension that could be detrimental to a smoothly running public service. Consideration should be given to opening the ceiling cap but tying any pay increase to the average of the pay increases afforded other employees within the Department. Many governments already tie pay incentive bonuses to successful or exemplary outcomes to a particular file, though care must be taken so that accepting files based solely because of the bonus incentives does not become an issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *