The Department of Finance announced today that Northern Ireland public sector pay policy has now been determined for 2017/18.
Permanent Secretary, Hugh Widdis said: “As indicated before, the department has been carefully considering the issue of public sector pay policy. I have agreed today that the 2016/17 Public Sector Pay Policy that was set by the previous Finance Minister, will continue to apply in 2017/18. This, in keeping with the overarching HM Treasury policy on UK public sector pay this year, will limit pay increases to 1 per cent."
“Setting Pay Policy would normally be the responsibility of the Finance Minister. However, I am very much aware of the pressures on hard working public sector staff and the potential impact on recruitment, retention and morale caused by the current unprecedented situation. Therefore, having considered all of these factors, I believe this is the most appropriate way to resolve this pressing situation and is in the public interest.”
With pay policy now in place for 2017/18, this will enable Departments and other public sector employers to engage with their staff groups and bring pay proposals forward to be considered for approval as and when appropriate.
Notes to editors:
1. Enforcement of pay growth limits was devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2007 within the overarching parameters set by Treasury. And in that regard, Summer 2015 Budget announced that the UK Government would fund public sector workforces for a pay award of 1% for 4 years from 2016-17 onwards. With the then Executive’s endorsement, the Finance Minister was given the responsibly for the setting / application of pay policy in Northern Ireland and the approval of pay remits for most of the staff groups in bodies within the wider public sector in Northern Ireland.
2. Annual guidance is issued on the local application of public sector pay policy and the approval process to be adhered to. As part of this process, a pay remit in respect of each staff group must be submitted by the responsible Department to the Department of Finance (DoF) for approval that sets out pay increase proposals with supporting evidence to justify these proposals. The Finance Minister would then be asked to approve each pay remit.
3.In the absence of an Executive, and prior to this announcement, Northern Ireland pay policy had not been set for 2017/18. The practical outworking was that pay awards have not been approvable, other than a small number where contractual or statutory obligations have provided the legal justification to give temporary approval.
4. This decision to continue to apply the Public Sector Pay Policy set by the previous Finance Minister means that pay awards for 2017/18 will be subject to the following parameters: (i) progression within pay-bands where this is contractual; and (ii) discretion to pay up to a maximum of 1 per cent revalorisation where this is affordable within current budgets (unless there is a contractual provision to pay above this rate). It is now for Departments to bring forward pay remits for 2017/18 for DoF consideration as and when appropriate.
5.The Department is satisfied that this decision can be taken so long as it is consistent with overarching UK pay policy parameters and in line with the approach set by the previous Finance Minister. The constitutional principle of leaving such decisions to Ministers has been balanced against the impact of further delay.
6. The most recent guidance on the pay remit approval process for 2016/17 is available at: https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/publications/finance-director-letters-fds-2016 and this remains broadly applicable for 2017/18. Further guidance will issue in due course containing any technical updates that may be required.
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