Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Whatever Happened to Increments?

"I've got over 10 years in and have moved up about £100 on the scale."
"It used to be called 'getting some time in' - gaining experience - all so sad now."

Hello Jim,

I saw the comment on Twitter and thought I would send you my comments on the pay issue. I have been employed as a PO for 12 years now and am currently paid around £2200 more than a new starter, yet around £4600 less than a colleague at the top of the scale. Most of these colleagues have enjoyed all that extra money every year after 10 years of service. We do like work and have the same responsibilities, but are are not of the same "value".

In my area we all agree this is grossly unfair, including those at the top of the pay scale, except for a small minority who have bemoaned their lack of any increase during the pay freeze. That didn't go down too well with those who have 15 years in and still on the same point as me. I believe it is also discriminatory.

Over the years I have campaigned long and hard to influence the recognised unions to address this issue, to no avail. I've had a range of responses over the years "we are working on a pay review to sort this out" so cannot support any legal action "we have bigger issues to deal with" which could be interpreted as don't be selfish? I have always considered the collective view. I have exercised patience and put my faith in the unions, but now feel badly let down on this issue. I do appreciate that the union negotiators have not had the support from members on pay issues which weakens their position. However, I have also felt there has been no will to pursue this

Due to my personal circumstances, I will now never reach the top of the scale and this has had a significant impact on my finances which will continue in my retirement.

To add insult to injury our increments, which are a contractual right, have been used as a pay increase and given to us at the end of the financial year, despite our contracts stating they should be paid in April. We have yet to be paid our increments for 15/16 but I haven't seen any evidence of consideration of legal action from the unions for breach of contract or unlawful deduction from wages?

This should have been sorted long before TR and maybe could have been included in the infamous agreements allowing the government to proceed. We all know what they turned out to be worth to those of us on the frontline.

I now cynically await the outcome of JE for my job and won't be surprised if this issue is resolved in a downgrading of my pay band.


Update From HR magazine website June 04 2014:-

The pay scheme debate

The Government’s plans to move towards performance-based payment progression in the public sector have been met with a mixed response. Annie Makeoff looks at the pros and cons of performance-related pay.

There has always been some tension between the private and public sector. IFF Research once described it as ‘sector envy’. And the radically different pay schemes – performance-based versus time-served models – have done little to ease it.

Peter Smith, director of public sector consulting at Hay Group, says as 80% of taxpayers work in the private sector, many are frustrated they have had pay cuts while public sector workers received pay rises due to incremental pay. In response to this, the Government announced at its Spending Review last month that automatic incremental pay progression would be scrapped in most public sector organisations from 2015 as part of a £11.5 billion cuts package.

So what does the future hold for automatic incremental pay progression? “It’s likely there will be a move towards making increment programmes based on performance rather than on time-served,” Smith predicts. “The original idea behind incremental pay is that everybody takes a while to become fully competent in a role, so you reward them as they grow in competence and experience.”

Smith says the private sector would never advocate automatic pay increments – a pay increase regardless of how well the organisation or individual has performed.

“The bottom line is if you don’t get rid of automatic incremental progression, you can’t control pay, and that is what the Government has realised,” he says.

Richard Crouch, president of the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, points out that despite public sector organisations having powers to withhold increments, very few do, so there is a culture of people moving up the pay scale irrespective of their performance.

With that comes the issue of incentives and staff morale. “[Under incremental pay] people were feeling that however well they performed everyone would get a pay rise,” says Jabbar Sardar, director of HR and OD at children’s services body Cafcass, which switched to performance-related pay in 2008.

“Our pay structure is already based on performance related pay, so you only move up to the next pay point if your performance is good,” Sardar explains. “But because the Government wants to remove pay progression from 2015, we’ve been looking at how we can implement their new approach whilst remaining competitive in the marketplace from a recruitment and retention perspective.”

Thames Valley Police also made the switch to performance related pay in the late 1990s. Like Cafcass, it had identified a sense of frustration among staff. “Introducing a performance element to our pay structure was about recognition and retention of high performers,” says John Summers, head of HR, innovation and reward at Thames Valley Police. Summers and HR director Steven Chase helped implement the force’s current performance-related pay system.

Chase says the transition to performance-related pay had to be made carefully. “At the time, like a lot of police forces, we were on the police staff council pay structure, so it was about giving staff the opportunity to stay on that if they wished, or move with us to the new system,” he recalls.

Although the majority of staff opted to move to the new system, Chase and Summers acknowledge that they were only able to implement the new pay structure because Thames Valley Police had the financial means to do so and were able to offer a 4% pay rise. Summers says although not everyone was on board with the new structure, the incentive did make it more worthwhile. This might not be possible today. “Public sector organisations will be more driven by the need to make financial savings, so that makes it more of a challenge,” he says.

Crouch describes the ‘pendulum effect’ of pay trends in the public sector, which has seen performance-related pay go from popular (in the 1970s and 80s) to avoided (from the 90s). He refers to the ‘open cheque book’ issue where line managers were automatically awarding performance-related bonuses to staff. The idea of staff bonuses ultimately became a dirty word – connotations of banker’s bonuses never being far from the mind.

“The pendulum is now swinging back towards performance related pay,” he says, but points out that measuring staff performance in a predominantly non-profit industry may be problematic.

“How on earth can you objectively measure performance fairly with some of the roles we have within the public sector?” he continues. “You can’t tell a child protection social worker that their target is to have 30 caseloads a month, but they must get them off their books within a full month period.”

The solution to these challenges, Crouch says, is to get more sophisticated by basing performance on contributions and positive interventions, rather than solely on input and output. Crouch adds that allowing HR to deal with performance-related pay rather than line managers would also help.

Ultimately though, the success of implementing a new pay system boils down to staff attitudes and the public sector’s reaction to such a radical change. The CIPD’s 2013 Reward Management Survey revealed huge gaps in attitudes towards pay. While private sector employees favoured the performancedriven model of payment, public sector workers preferred the more traditional methods of reward management.

Trade unions, too, are cynical about private-sector inspired reward-based pay schemes, fearing it will result in reduced members’ pay and, ultimately, fewer workers’ rights. But the success of introducing such schemes into organisations like Thames Valley Police and Cafcass suggest it is possible to reach amicable agreements. Crouch asserts that it’s a case of “instilling the advantages” to the unions rather than focusing on the “draconian message” from the Government, which he believes is exacerbating the situation. “It’s about people being paid fairly for a fair day’s work. Focus on that rather than the tough Government message in their Spending Review,” he advises.

“It’s definitely an issue of trust,” Smith adds. “Incremental pay is a fixed system with key elements that can’t be easily removed, but with this new fluid pay structure comes the fear that management could take advantage and use it to cut pay.”

So, what about the divide within the public sector? Under plans put forward in the Spending Review, the civil service, police and NHS will be expected to move to performance-related pay from 2015, but there was no mention of local authorities. As they are essentially independent bodies, are they are immune from these changes? Crouch doesn’t think so. He maintains that as the majority of local authorities are run by Conservative-led councils, they will still be under pressure to change to performance-related pay.

Steve Houghton, performance and reward manager at Essex County Council, agrees: “Local authorities are moving from being service providers to commissioning-based organisations, so their pay structures will need to appeal to those in the private sector if they are to remain competitive.” The council introduced its own form of performance-related pay in 2001 using a staged approach with “continual communication with employees”. Houghton believes the new system has created ‘a direct link’ between pay reward schemes and improved performance.

There is a consensus among HR specialists like Smith, Crouch and Sardar that performance-related pay can do much to enhance the public sector’s reputation.

“There has always been the point of view that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad. Incremental pay does nothing to reverse that reputation,” says Crouch. “The public sector should be mirroring some of the good practice that the private sector is undertaking. Performance-related pay is based on incentives and clarity for the employee and that can’t be a bad thing.”


Hi Jim,

I wanted to give you an update with our local area: we’re having so many people leaving at the moment both from NPS and CRC and at all grades. People are leaving via lots of different routes including retiring early or choosing other careers. Of those of us left, a fair few are on maternity leave. Even those who have never had any intention of leaving probation are starting to look around to see if there is a better alternative out there for them.

A few people from our area have found good jobs with the local authority – they are keen on our multi-agency working and the pay is fairly equal so might be a good option for others looking to get out (plus the pension is local government so can be continued).

Our trainees at the moment are having to choose where they would want to work – some are trying to decide between community and prison without a clear indication of what probation officer role in prison will look like. Those newly qualified officers since the split are already working in the community with IPP, lifer and sexual offending cases and there doesn't seem to be any restriction on types of cases they can work with or as far as I can tell any protected caseload. Even our trainees have high caseloads with many more cases than we ever did when we were training.

Also, whilst I’m writing to you, have you seen this link to the new qualification route? Perhaps it's already been on the blog and I missed it? If I'm reading it right, in the future it seems to be that everyone who wants to be a probation officer will have to:

  • Complete a degree with an approved university with specific modules (I’m not sure the specific modules currently exist in any degree at the moment???)
  • Only then can you apply to complete the professional qualification in probation (which may be funded by the employer) 
  • After which you can APPLY for a probation officer job IF one is available 
I'm guessing this will bring revenue for the universities chosen to be approved after the procurement exercise – I'm not sure if this procurement exercise has been completed yet or not?

Best Wishes,


  1. I see there is an update of the JE process on the Napo website. One issue that I see here is the involvement of Napo on the JE panels which usually comprise two representatives from the management side and two from the trade union side. The 'disappointing outcomes' would therefore be the products of the panels' deliberations and represent the agreed view of the majority of the members of a panel. These outcomes have been agreed by the unions if my understanding of how the panels work is correct. This seems reminiscent of signing and agreement and then saying we do not agree with the 'split'. Given the doubts being expressed about job descriptions, Napo should have steered clear of participation on the panels until such issues were resolved. Because once you freely get involved in something and don't like the outcome, you are burdened with fait accomplis and post-hoc justifications. Napo should have thought more carefully beforehand especially when they knew Noms were working a cynical cost-cutting agenda.

    From Napo: 'More news will follow as soon as possible but meanwhile we would want to take this opportunity to ask that all our members recognise that Napo and especially those individual members who have taken part in the JE panels and who have done so in accordance with the agreed processes (after having received appropriate training) are working to ensure that your interests are protected and that it is unreasonable to blame individuals for the disappointing outcomes which have been made on Job Descriptions that themselves are a continuing bone of contention. In addition, Napo members are facing a continuing Government inspired agenda to further erode professional standards and secure more for less from the NPS workforce.'

  2. The Probation increment for 2015 is to be paid with March salaries. This is according to the NOMS intranet included in the announcement of the Prison Officer pay deal. I've seen nothing from NPS on this which shows how little regard is paid to NPS in NOMS

    1. Thanks for that info it would have been nice if our employers had bothered to tell us

  3. Quick question. If we hire a member of staff to a position with a salary band, but allow no way to progress though the band, is this a type of false advertising and contrary to employment law?

    1. There is a way it's just a slow crawl which has created a divide it's certainly unfair but not sure it's illegal

  4. For all those who are dissatisfied with NAPO, I would like to recommend Prospect. Prospect has an excellent track record of standing up to, and winning employers, particularly on issues of equal pay. Additionally, it costs less than NAPO subs. Typically, for salaries up to £:38k, it's £15.34 per month. Seems to me there are so man disillusioned NAPO members out there. Let them know how you really feel .... Move on.

  5. In relation to the first contibuter rega ding increments, haven't had one for in excess of 15 years, and are you suggesting those at the top of the PO band, suffers acreduction in income. I've always viewed it as a retention issue, as that is how it was seen, when PO's were being poached, it is my loyalty that has been rewarded, and it's odd that a colleague would want me to give up, what I have earned! For the record, just like when men argued to retire at 60, like women, they just raised the age to 65 for women, be careful what you wish for!

    1. Not sure I understand your comment but to be clear I am stating that a pay scale which takes 22 years to reach the top is blatantly unfair and needs to be shortened more so as colleagues employed before 1997 only had to do 10 years to reach the top

  6. What you now earn with 12 years experience far exceeds what I was earning after 10 years and the top of the scale has not increased for many years, as the greater increases where given to the other end of the payscale!incidentally, I completely agreed with that! There used to be another annomally, depending on when you joined, if you were over 30! I joined at 26, those over 30 joining at the same time,earned more than me! Its called change and things are never as straightforward as we'd like!

    1. I'm really struggling to understand your point? Are you seriously suggesting that colleagues who have 12 an 15 years experience shouldn't enjoy the same salary as you and be at the too of the scale instead of not being halfway through ! I don't think many would agree and in my experience there's no additional value firm those with longer service in fact I would say that 5 years experience is more than enough!

  7. I agree. I do EXACTLY the same work as someone at the top of the scale. I have 12 years experience yet I earn £4,000 less. This also affects my pension. Other public sector employees enjoy a nine year pay scale. I will be 61 when I reach the top...only another 13 years to go.....