Millions of workers will receive a boost to their pay next year as the Chancellor announced he will scrap the year-long public sector pay freeze.
Rishi Sunak said on Monday (25 October) evening that the 12-month pay restraint imposed on workers between April 2021 and March 2022, with the exception of NHS workers earning less than £24,000, is to be lifted now that the UK’s economy is “firmly back on track” after lifting lockdown restrictions.
The pay restraint for public sector workers was announced in November last year and affected more than five million people.
So who is in line to get a pay rise once the pay freeze is scrapped? Here’s what you need to know.
Who are public sector workers?
Around 5.68 million people are employed in the public sector, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Organisations that are not part of the public sector are instead part of the private or voluntary sector.
There are more than 300 different occupations within the public sector, ranging from business and administration roles, to emergency services, social care and armed forces personnel.
The public sector has a much higher proportion of high-skilled jobs than the private sector which is likely due to the fact that large occupational groups, such as doctors and teachers, now require at least a degree.
While there is a huge range of public sector jobs, most workers are clustered into a small number of areas, with almost half in occupations related to health, education, government, police and domestic services, according to the ONS.
Job roles within the public sector include the following:
- Healthcare - this includes doctors, nurses, care workers, ambulance staff, dental nurses, dental practitioners, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists, among others. The NHS is the healthcare sector’s biggest employer.
- Law enforcement and security - this includes police officers, armed forces personnel and fire service officers.
- Social care - this includes social workers, carers and probation officers.
- Education - this includes nursery, primary, secondary and higher education teachers, educational support assistants, school secretaries, education advisors and school inspectors.
- The civil service - this includes more than 170 government departments working across employment, pensions, healthcare, education and security.
How is public sector pay decided?
Pay for most frontline workforces, including nurses, police officers, prison officers and teachers, is set through independent pay review bodies which make recommendations to ministers.
As large areas of the public sector are devolved, decisions on pay fall to the ministers responsible in Holyrood, the Senedd and Stormont.
If extra funding is made available to increase pay set in England by the UK Government, it could result in more cash going to the devolved administrations under the Barnett formula so they could choose to boost salaries there.
Officials said the Government would be requesting “full recommendations” from the respective sector pay bodies, with awards to be announced next year.
What has Rishi Sunak said?
In a statement announcing his decision to scrap the public sector pay freeze, Mr Sunak said: “The economic impact and uncertainty of the virus meant we had to take the difficult decision to pause public sector pay.
“Along with our Plan for Jobs, this action helped us protect livelihoods at the height of the pandemic.
“And now, with the economy firmly back on track, it’s right that nurses, teachers and all the other public sector workers who played their part during the pandemic see their wages rise.”
Despite the promise to lift the public sector pay freeze, critics have questioned if workers will be any better off as the Chancellor has already increased National Insurance and cut Universal Credit as inflation rises.
Mr Sunak increased National Insurance contributions for workers by 1.25% to help pay for the NHS and social care, while he ended the £20-a-week Universal Credit coronavirus uplift earlier this month.
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