Recruiters call for end to pay freeze for nurses and teachers

Recruiters have called on government to introduce a pay rise for nurses and teachers of above 2.9% to stave off an ongoing exodus of talent.

Yesterday, the BBC reported government announced the current cap on public sector pay rises in England and Wales was to be lifted, with ministers now getting "flexibility" to breach the longstanding 1% limit.

Public sector pay was frozen for two years in 2010, barring those on less than £21k a year, and since 2013, rises have been capped at 1% – below the rate of inflation.

Yesterday also saw the release of official data revealing that inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index rose to 2.9%, from 2.6%, in August.

Agencies operating in the healthcare and education sectors have told Recruiter any pay increases for teachers and nurses need to be above 2.9%, with these professionals increasingly seeking to leave these professions.

Leasa Clarke, director and leadership consultant at SLT Education recruitment, told Recruiter the pay increase is needed in teaching as some teachers are choosing supply teaching over full time permanent work as supply teaching pays more.

“Teachers have been affected quite badly. As a result we have seen a lot of teachers leaving the profession to do supply work, because you get paid more on a supply basis…

“I would suspect a reduction in pay increases again would result in a catastrophe on the teacher side of things because they are already complaining about the pay cuts that they have. It needs to be above 2.9%.”

As for the healthcare sector, Greg Wood, director at Your World Recruitment, told Recruiter a meaningful pay rise is needed due to some nurses leaving the sector entirely.

“It’s important they look after the nurses … there is a discussion with the RCN [Royal College of Nursing] to ensure that nurses are looked after, particularly with the recruitment and retention problems we’re facing.

“It’s got to be a meaningful amount that reflects the inflation rate so it’s a true increase to the nurses – not just sustaining their salary in the current market.

“Some nurses are looking at going overseas – Australia among other countries – but we are also getting some nurses that are wondering whether they should leave the profession and grow their careers in different non-medical areas.”

But it’s not just at lower levels that pay is a concern, says Martin Tucker, CEO at GatenbySanderson, a public sector staffing specialist, which recruits senior leadership roles.

“At very senior leadership levels where we operate, salary is, of course, important in attracting and retaining the right candidates to achieve some of the transformational change required to develop and build services for a growing and aging population. 

“An issue at this level is less the exodus of talent and more a lack of desire to step up into leadership roles, with the extra complex demands and often public accountability that comes with a rise to the top, where salary differentials can be quite small. 

“At this level, it is role fulfilment, talent development and the opportunity to shape future communities that is a larger driver for retaining talent.”

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