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Pay awards only expected to rise 1.7% in next year, finds CIPD

CIPD warns that ‘jobs-rich, pay-poor’ economy is set to continue as pay awards are expected to only rise by 1.7% in the next year.

Many employees are unlikely to see much of a boost to the real value of their pay until at least the end of this decade, according to the latest Labour Market Outlook published today by the CIPD.

The survey of more than 1,000 employers identifies a number of factors that are combining to keep pay growth low, even though hiring intentions remain strong.  In response, the CIPD is calling on the Government to be more interventionist in its support and work in partnership with business to help improve organisations’ productivity so they can improve salaries.

The latest quarterly CIPD Labour Market Outlook survey finds that employers expecting to make a pay award during the 12 months between March this year and March 2017 plan to award a median pay increase of 1.7%.

This is the second quarter in a row when the CIPD’s survey of employers has anticipated a figure below the Government’s official inflation target of 2%. It highlights how low inflation, expanding labour supply and the lack of productivity growth are working in combination to reduce the economic pressure for employers to pay their staff more. In addition, the report finds that government-imposed increases in labour costs – such as the Apprenticeship Levy and increases to the National Living Wage will continue to reduce the scope for employers to raise pay for other workers, while the public sector continues to see wage rises kept to 1% or less.

Mark Beatson, CIPD chief economist, commented, "These findings show that employers remain confident about short-term job prospects, with many more expecting to take on new staff than expecting to shed staff as the UK ‘jobs miracle’ continues. For now, there’s no sign of the economy running out of jobs, or out of people to fill those jobs. However, the UK is now in its eighth year of productivity ‘go-slow’ which continues to limit the scope for employers to pay more and recruitment and retention problems have so far proved manageable without across-the-board pay rises. This survey provides no indication of this situation changing any time soon.

“On top of this, employers are having to manage the consequences of government-imposed increases to the cost of employing people. The National Living Wage and roll-out of pension auto-enrolment were introduced to improve the living standards of low-paid employees, but this can only happen without significant job losses if the productivity of low-paid employees also increases. Simply making low-paid labour more expensive is not the answer and the Government shouldn’t be surprised if some employers choose easier options, such as reducing hours, chipping away at other benefits or making a less generous pay award the next time pay is reviewed.

“If the Government is going to intervene in this way, these policies have to be accompanied by a more active approach to helping businesses cope with these changes and improvements to their productivity; for example by providing more practical advice and support for businesses.”

The CIPD is warning that some businesses lack the knowledge and capability to raise their game and are stuck in a cycle of low investment, low training and low ambition. This applies especially to small businesses who often need support with the basics of running a business and managing people before they can progress to planning for expansion or raising their efficiency. Larger businesses may need help to address unresolved productivity challenges, such as the high proportion of people over-qualified for their role.

Beatson added, “It’s not good enough for the Government to make these changes and say ‘over to you’. Instead they must play a more active role in supporting businesses, particularly given that we are likely to see further inflation-busting increases in the National Living Wage in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April is another addition to payroll costs for larger organisations in all sectors. The Government needs to provide greater support and employers are going to have to be more and more creative in how they manage reward and motivate employees.

“Without productivity improvements, organisations will be forced to keep pay budgets under ever tighter control, which is why we believe the current jobs-rich, pay-poor environment is likely to continue as these increased costs to business take effect."

Jamie Mackenzie, director of marketing at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, commented, “The CIPD’s latest outlook report does not make for pretty reading for many employees who are, quite reasonably, hoping for increases to their pay before the end of the decade.

"If bonuses and pay rises are not an available option for businesses in the current economic climate, it’s crucial that employees are supported and receive recognition for their contributions in other ways.

"The key to rewarding staff lies in the overall employee value proposition (EVP). This means empowering employees and providing recognition for their contribution to the business, and then incorporating this into a comprehensive benefits package. Benefits packages should be personalised to employees, taking into account individual circumstances and lifestyles, with benefits such as flexible-working, healthcare and childcare support where appropriate.

"Whilst salary is always going to be important, employees also want to work for a company that considers their personal goals and aspirations. Companies that recognise employees’ efforts through specific, personalised rewards will not only make staff feel valued and incentivised,  but will also build a reputation as a top workplace, which will further reduce the need to depend purely on pay rises to reward, recruit and retain key staff.”

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