Viewpoint – Heightened staffing pressures could make for increased pay awards in 2019

We publish the results of our pay planning survey – which looks at employers’ reward intentions for 2019 – at a time when the economy and the labour market present a series of apparent paradoxes. On the one hand, economic growth is weak in comparison with previous periods, with the manufacturing sector virtually in recession and job losses in parts of retail. Productivity growth has faltered since the crash of 2009, and business investment remains low in historic terms.

On the other hand, the labour market seems to be robust, at least in terms of falling unemployment (down to 4%, a figure it last reached in the mid-1970s) and still growing employment. But there is a debate about the extent to which the labour market may have a soft underbelly. This is mostly framed in terms of how ‘underemployment’ – the extent to which employees would like to work more hours, while falling, is still some way above pre-recession levels, indicating that there are still areas of weakness in the labour market. Our survey results tend to support the view that the labour market is tighter, or at least tightening. Over three-fifths of respondents said that pay pressures are increasing, with recruitment and retention issues the main factor behind this. It could be that we have reached the point where it is no longer possible to reduce unemployment and raise employment without increasing wages further. The changing make-up of the labour market in the run-up to and in the aftermath of Brexit could also be a factor here. In addition, while inflation is not as high as it has been in previous periods, it remains at moderate levels and is expected to remain so over the next period, with the possibility that Brexit could see it rise further (see forecasts on page 5). It is not surprising, therefore, that the cost of living has become more important for employers when it comes to determining the level of pay rises. These pressures could produce higher pay rises in 2019 than in 2018. We asked respondents how they thought their 2019 pay awards would compare to inflation. Similar proportions – just below a third – thought they would be equal to the RPI and CPI/CPIH in each case, while just above a quarter thought that pay rises would be in-between the CPI/CPIH and RPI percentage rates. If economists’ predictions are correct and the RPI is around 3% in the first quarter of 2019, then we could see a third of awards at this level (with a further small proportion, 6%, above the RPI). A further third could be worth around 2.2%, while just above a quarter could be set at intermediate levels, eg around 2.6%. Overall this points to between three-fifths and two-thirds of pay awards in 2019 coming in at 2.6% or higher, with many of these at 3% or above. Meanwhile the NLW will also continue to present an upward pressure at the lower end of the earnings distribution.

Other issues for HR/reward professionals in the year ahead include the burgeoning agenda around the reporting of various pay statistics. Employers had to publish their gender pay gaps for the first time this year. The new rules made for an enhanced focus on equal pay issues, even if figures for gaps by job or grade were not required, and this is unlikely to diminish. In fact, the prospect of extra data requirements figured in the Conservatives’ 2016 manifesto and is therefore possible even if the current administration survives. Indeed, the Commons committee on the lessons learnt from the introduction of gender pay gap reporting makes a number of recommendations that point in this direction, including gaps at deciles rather than quartiles and measures to improve data accuracy.

Added to this (in 2020) will be the obligation to report the ratios between the salaries of chief executives’ and those for each firm’s ‘average’ worker. All of this means that properly communicating reward practices to employees will gain in importance over the coming period. Another emerging theme is the possibility that more employers could consider linking pay to productivity improvements. This can be done crudely in those instances where output can be easily measured, but in most cases the emphasis is likely to be on connections between salaries and some indicator of capability, competency or skills. These sorts of relationships could help improve the economy’s poor performance in respect of productivity.
It has to be said, though, that widespread developments in this area are unlikely without a rise in business investment. This tends to be positively related to wage growth. Indeed, the fact that business investment has faltered in the wake of the recession and in the advent of Britain’s departure from the EU is a key explanation for the relatively weak real-terms wage growth witnessed since the crash. For the economy to resume growth, investment will have to begin again, whatever the UK’s relationship with its nearest trading partners. If and when it does, wage growth is likely to be stronger.

IDR gains Cyber Security certification

Incomes Data Research has successfully passed Cyber Essentials, demonstrating our commitment to cyber security.

Cyber Essentials  is a is a UK government scheme encouraging organisations to adopt good practice in information security. It helps firms guard against the most common cyber threats and ensures firms have robust IT and data security processes and systems in place.



Average Weekly Earnings – Falls in bonus pay nudge earnings growth down to 2.4%

Falls in bonus pay nudge earnings growth down to 2.4%

The rate of growth of average weekly earnings in the whole economy dropped back again in the latest figures from the ONS, to 2.4% in the year to June 2018, down from 2.5% in the year to May and 2.6% in the year to April. Bonus pay fell across all industrial sectors, especially in finance and business services, and was a major contribution to the drop in total pay growth.

Underlying earnings growth, as measured by the ‘regular pay’ series, which excludes bonuses, was a little higher at 2.7%. While this was also down on the previous month’s headline figure – which is based on a rolling three-month average – the single-month figures for regular pay for June showed a slight rise, from 2.7% to 2.8%, in contrast to the single-month figures for total pay, which fell sharply from 2.5% to 2.1%.

Average weekly earnings by sector at June 2018

 Average weekly earnings - regular pay (£pw)
Average weekly bonuses (£pw)
Finance and business services
Wholesale, retail, hotels and restaurants33321
Private sector48038
Public sector5181

In last month’s figures, the fall in bonuses was confined to the finance and business services sector. However, this month bonuses fell back across all sectors, reflecting weakness in the economy in the year to June.

In the finance and business services sector, total average earnings grew by 1.5% in the year to June, marginally up on the figure of 1.4% in the year to May. In this sector the rise in earnings growth excluding bonuses was 2.4%.

In manufacturing, average earnings grew by 2.5% in the year to June, down from 2.9% in the year to May. However, a year ago, in June 2017, the rate of growth in manufacturing was much lower, at 1.3%.

In construction, where pay growth has been higher than other sectors recently, the rate of growth in average earnings was 5.3%, down a little from a revised figure of 5.7% in the year to May. However, in June 2017, the rate of growth in earnings in construction was almost zero, at 0.1%.

In the lowest-paying sector of wholesale, retail, hotels and restaurants, which has seen significant job losses over recent months, earnings growth was 3.2% in the year to June, the same as the revised figure for May. In June 2017, the rate of growth was a percentage point lower at 2.2%.

Looking at the private sector overall, average earnings growth was 2.4% in the year to June on the total pay measure and 2.8% on the regular pay measure. Meanwhile in the public sector, pay growth was 2.2% in the year to June, the same as the revised figure for May (both on the total pay measure, since bonuses are not a significant component of public sector pay).

Despite the public sector employing a much greater proportion of graduates and professional staff than the private sector, average weekly earnings are currently lower in the former than in the latter. Actual average earnings in the public sector dropped back from £518 in May to £517 in June, slightly behind the private sector figure of £518. First-stage increases from the recent three-year pay deal in the NHS were only paid in July and as such have yet to appear in the ONS data.

Maternity and paternity pay – Most employers improve on statutory but sectors vary in their generosity

A majority of UK firms (70%) improve on statutory maternity pay of £145.18pw, according to IDR’s survey of maternity and paternity provisions. The most generous occupational maternity pay policies are on offer within the manufacturing and primary sector. Among the 53% of employers in this sector that offer enhanced maternity pay, mothers are typically eligible for around 19 weeks’ full pay. The lowest-value enhanced maternity pay policies are found within private services, where they are worth around 12 weeks’ full pay.

Continue reading Maternity and paternity pay – Most employers improve on statutory but sectors vary in their generosity

Pay reviews – Median remains at 2.5%

For the sixth consecutive month, the median pay award across the whole economy stands at 2.5%, with the private sector median also holding steady at 2.5% in the three months to the end of June 2018. The median continues to be influenced by a number of higher awards at or above 4% which together account for a tenth of all rises in the sample.
Continue reading Pay reviews – Median remains at 2.5%

Explaining the variation in gender pay gap figures

Around 10,000 firms have published their gender pay gap figures in line with the government’s deadline and there have been numerous headlines about those with the highest gaps. But what does the data really tell us? Here, we look at how and why the figures vary, with an emphasis on sectoral variations, as well as the impact that collective bargaining appears to have on the size of gender pay gaps.

Employers’ publication of their gender pay gaps has sparked a national conversation about the relationship between gender and pay. To date 10,249 firms have published their figures. IDR analysis of these shows an average gap of 14.4% between the average pay for men and that for women. There are, however, significant differences by sector.

Continue reading Explaining the variation in gender pay gap figures

Pay reviews – May remains at 2.5%

The median pay award across the whole economy remains at 2.5%, according to our latest analysis. This is the fifth consecutive month in which the median increase has been at this level. Higher awards, i.e. those at or above 3%, continue to account for almost a third of pay outcomes. The latest median, for the three months to May 2018, is influenced by several pay awards of over 4%, for instance at Argos and Centre Parcs, as well as by lower awards in some areas of the economy. Comparatively few increases are below 2% though we have recorded five pay freezes this time.

Continue reading Pay reviews – May remains at 2.5%

Pay reviews – More deals at 3% or above

The proportion of pay awards at or above 3% has increased, according to the latest analysis from IDR, with these awards accounting for over a third of all settlements monitored in the three months to the end of April 2018. This compares to just under a quarter of awards recorded at this level in the three months to the end of January. The median pay increase across the economy remains at 2.5%. This is the same increase recorded in the last five three-month rolling periods. The interquartile range, where half of awards are set, has widened slightly to between 2% and 3%. The latest figures are based on 96 pay awards, covering over 1.5 million employees.

Continue reading Pay reviews – More deals at 3% or above

RPI inflation rate looks likely to remain above 3% mark

Our panel of City economists considers that while inflation is unlikely to rise in the short term, it is likely to remain at or above 3% over the coming 18 months. The prospects for inflation are probably best summarised in the Bank of England’s recent Inflation Report, released on 10 May. It said: ‘Conditional on market interest rates, domestic inflationary pressures are projected to build over the forecast period while the contribution from energy and import prices dissipates.’

Continue reading RPI inflation rate looks likely to remain above 3% mark