No doubt, following on from the outrage felt by most people about Hester’s bonus, bankers’ bonuses in general, the greed and lack of remorse of Jean-Claude Mas etc. etc. the media will soon turn our attention back to the undeserving public sector employee. After all, councils will be setting budgets soon; Council Tax for 2012/13 will be announced and, if it goes up at all, there will be an outcry about the cost of council workers, their gold-plated pension schemes etc. I’m bracing myself for the next onslaught.
The CIPD published its fourth annual survey of Employee Attitudes to Pay earlier in January, and key findings included the following:
“By sector, 51% of private sector employees have had a pay rise since the start of 2011, 45% did likewise in the voluntary sector, but just 24% of those in the public sector have received an increase.
Among those receiving a pay rise the average (median) increase was 2.5%
The proportion of employees who have been subject to a pay freeze has increased from 24% in 2008 to 48% in 2011.
By sector, public sector employees (70%) are most likely to have seen their pay frozen in 2011, followed by those in the voluntary sector (48%) and the private sector (42%). In addition, 5% of employees saw their pay cut”.
Yes, ordinary employees across the board are receiving less, but public sector workers on average fared worse last year. That’s OK, you might think, they have loads of other benefits that compensate for pay freezes (or in the case of some councils, pay cuts.) This led me to compare benefits between the public and private sector and see if I could think of any benefit at all enjoyed exclusively by public sector employees. Before I give my conclusion, a disclaimer…
My experience is in the public sector, but I read widely about reward in other sectors and of course, know plenty of people who work for private employers – both large corporate employers and other employers of varying sizes, some of whom seem to offer the bare minimum they can get away with and stay legal. I know less about the voluntary or third sector, so am not including that in my comparison.
So, what benefits are exclusively enjoyed in the public sector, to the point where politicians and the media have no problem in denigrating us?
¨ Final salary pension schemes? No. Some still on offer in private sector, and many public sector final salary schemes closed to new entrants.
¨ Flexible working? No. All good employers employees offer this and appreciate the positive impact on morale. However, just as some roles in the private sector do not lend themselves to this, the same goes for the public sector.
¨ Job security? No. Just look at all the NHS redundancies made in 2011.
¨ Occupational sick pay, more generous holidays and maternity pay schemes? No. Most good employers run reasonable occupational schemes that offer more than the statutory minimum. OK, so some public sectors may not manage sickness absence as well as they could, but this has changed hugely in recent years, and yes, it is possible to be sacked in the pubic sector!
¨ Antisocial hours shift allowance? No. Also available elsewhere, but I concede less so in the private sector and this is in need of modernisation in the public sector.
I could add many more, but the above examples appear to be cited the most by our critics.
I compiled a long list of other benefits, and guess what? I think I may have found some that are exclusively enjoyed by some in the private sector! Usually, this is when times are good, and that’s the trouble, public sector pay and conditions are relatively stable so they appear ‘generous’ in austere times. Here’s my list of benefits most public sector employees can only dream about:
¨ Share options
¨ Profit sharing schemes
¨ First class travel (this may occur in the higher echelons, but the Chief Executives I know in the public sector travel standard class.)
¨ Private healthcare
¨ Fully paid or subsidised Christmas or other celebratory parties
¨ Conferences abroad (with treats thrown in for partners)
My appeal to the media and others is for balance and fairness. Public sector employees do a wonderful job on the whole and often have to cope with highly complex, unpleasant or distressing situations. Please stop this negativity.