UK accused of ‘treating senior officials with contempt’; US State Department must improve IT recruitment efforts: management & workforce news in brief

By on 21/07/2022 | Updated on 21/07/2022
A picture of UK pounds sterling
UK pounds sterling. Photo: Steve Bulley from Pixabay

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UK government accused of ‘treating senior officials with contempt’ over pay

The UK government has been accused of treating senior civil servants with contempt after rejecting a recommendation for an across-the-board 3% pay increase for the cohort of top officials.

The recommendation was made by the Senior Salaries Review Body, which provides advice to officials on pay rates, in part in response to concerns “about whether the senior civil service (SCS) is able to attract and retain leaders of the right calibre”.

However, the government has said that senior officials will instead get a 2% increase, with a further 1% pay bill flexibility used to raise the minimum wage rates at the bottom of senior civil service pay bands, and addressing specific recruitment and retention pressures.

The FDA trade union, which represents senior officials, said that the decision showed the government “has yet again decided to treat civil service leaders – its own employees – with contempt”, as the 2% increase was below the pay award for other senior public sector workers.

FDA assistant general secretary Lucille Thirlby said that a 2% pay increase is, in fact, a significant pay cut given that inflation is currently 8.2%, adding that “it is an extraordinary decision when you consider that the other public sector leaders, who civil servants work alongside, will receive increases of between 3% and 4.5%”.

Thirlby warned ministers that their decision to yet again hold back SCS pay without any plan to resolve the chronic issues in pay structures was a “decision they will come to regret”.

Read more: Civil servants get more time to enter 2022 Data Challenge

US State Department must improve IT recruitment efforts, say auditors

The US State Department has been told to improve the oversight of its plans to improve its IT workforce by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), which warned that it does not currently know if its plans to boost recruitment work.

The GAO identified 10 challenges the department faced in recruiting and retaining its IT workforce, including low entry level pay raises and limited retention incentives, and limited promotion possibilities. Other obstacles included a lengthy hiring and clearance process, and inaccurate position descriptions during recruitment.

Although the GAO noted that the department had acted to overcome some of these challenges, including raising entry-level pay for experienced IT applicants and expanding its incentive pay, it does not have the IT workforce data needed to monitor and evaluate progress. “Consequently, State does not know if its actions are improving its recruitment and retention, and achieving its goals,” the report added.

“If State increases its focus on recruitment and retention practices, the department can better compete with other employers for critical IT staff with key skills and abilities.”

The GAO probe came as the department updated its procurement plan to provide better technology for US diplomats. The Evolve scheme is intended to provide better IT management, network and telecommunications, cloud and data centres, and application development for staff, and could cost up to US$10bn – up from the US$8bn in previous drafts of the plan.

Australian prime minister pledges ‘to make full use of public servants’

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese has pledged to “make full use of the creativity and intelligence of the people” who work in the Australian Public Service after a meeting with senior officials.

Albanese made the statement after meeting with a host of officials in Canberra on 18 July. “A strong and independent public service provides the advice and expertise that keeps Australia running,” he said. “I got the chance to thank our public servants in Canberra today. The incoming government will make full use of the creativity and intelligence of the people who work here.”

The meeting is the latest in a number of initiatives from Albanese’s new government to engage the public service, which also include appointing a top official to lead a public sector redesign and reorganising departments to reflect the new government’s priorities.

Read more: Australian Public Service Commission updates remote working guidance amid COVID case spike

Irish civil service warned over diversity of recruitment

The body that oversees senior appointments to the civil service in Ireland has warned that the lack of ethnic diversity in senior appointments could mean that the civil service “will cease to be reflective of the society it serves”.

In its annual report, the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC), which recommends candidates to ministers and government for top jobs, said that “far-reaching questions should be asked about the lack of ethnic diversity in the pool of applicants to TLAC”, and also said that similar questions needed to be asked about the lack of private sector applicants who make it through to appointment.

Without action to improve diversity, the committee warned the civil service would become “increasingly introspective, homogenous and monocultural”, adding: “If this were to happen it would be a great disservice both to the civil service itself and to the society it serves.”

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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