National Update

National Pay Offer 2024

03 May 2024

Last week the National Employers submitted a pay offer for sector wide consultation.

The offer covers the following:

Basic Pay

A 4% increase on all basic pay rates and Continual Professional Development (CPD) payments with effect from 1 July 2024.

Retaining Fee

The annual retaining fee is 10% of the equivalent wholetime role for anyone providing, on average 120 hours availability or more per week, with 7.5% of the retaining fee for anything below 120 hours.

The offer widens the bands from two to five:

  • 120 – 168 hours per week = 15%
  • 91 – 119 hours per week = 12.5%
  • 61 – 90 hours per week = 10%
  • 60 – 31 hours per week = 7.5%
  • Up to and including 30 hours per week = 5%

Occupational maternity pay

  • 26 weeks at full pay (inclusive of all allowances and CPD).
  • followed by 13 weeks at SMP

Pay structure, progression and CPD

A commitment by the National Employers to open talks to discuss a restructure of pay, progression and CPD.

FRSA commentary

Having received the detail of the pay offer, we would make the following observations and comments.

Basic Pay

Firstly, the offer of a 4% increase in basic pay is reasonable, particularly in light of the previous pay offer, 7% in 2022 and 5% in 2023. However, as with the previous offers, the 4% is unfunded.

Why does this matter, well, the 4% increase will have to come from somewhere, either through an increase in local taxation or savings (aka cuts). There remains a limit on the level of tax increase local councils can make, although that may change with a change in government. What we do know about the pay offer from 2022/23, is that local fire and rescue services didn’t have the budget for the pay award with some using an increase in tax, but it still wasn’t enough and savings had to be made. We have witnessed a number of FRSs proposing reductions in firefighter posts and the removal of a number of its frontline appliances to generate the necessary savings needed.

While an increase of 4% in basic pay is welcome and goes toward holding off the decade-long slide in real wages, it would be irresponsible of any stakeholder, to ignore the fact that an unfunded pay increase will cost the jobs of some of our colleagues.

The establishment has been reduced by over 10,000 firefighter posts in the last decade, so unfunded pay rises will only increase this decline.

Our view is that there needs to be longer-term budgeting of fire and rescue services to allow for better strategic planning and remove the annual cycle of uncertainty and short-term changes needed to balance local budgets.

Retainer Fee

The proposal to widen the number of bands from two to five, is the product of eight months of meetings between members of the NJC.

There are already a number of fire and rescue services that have local agreements in place that provide for a wider banding system, similar to that which is currently being offered, so this is nothing new or revolutionary in the proposal.

However, while an increase in the retaining fee is welcome (above 91 hours), we do question whether the proposal stands up to scrutiny.

Firstly, we believe that it is good practice to promote a maximum of 120 hours per week of availability, notwithstanding the individual choice to provide a greater level of cover. But more importantly, the proposal provides a greater incentive for those providing lower levels of availability, as the table below demonstrates.

The proposal reduces the hourly rate the more hours of availability an individual provides. This seems to us to be the opposite of what a pay structure should be seeking to achieve. We should be rewarding not disincentivising higher levels of availability.

We would have preferred a sliding scale of availability paid on a hourly basis rather than bands which in some cases mean that an individual can provide between 39-48 hours of availability per week with no financial recognition of doing so.

A flat rate of say, £1.20 per hour would be fairer and provide a financial incentive to provide higher levels of cover. We feel that this is an opportunity missed by the members of the NJC.

This part of the pay offer is not acceptable to the FRSA and a fairer system needs to be made available.

We would also take this opportunity to highlight, that pay for availability is only a small part of how pay needs modernising with the entire pay structure for all grey book staff needing to be reformed to reflect a wider role and expanded skill-set.

Occupational maternity pay

We welcome the proposal to increase maternity pay to 26 weeks followed by 13 weeks statutory maternity pay.

There is more work that needs to be done regarding education and resources relating to the menopause to enable female staff to continue in their role which is a wider piece of work that needs to include a review of fitness standards, something we have been pushing for a number of years, and with the exception of Women in the Fire Service, we are a lone voice in doing so.

As a member-led organisation, the FRSA welcomes our members views on the pay offer, these views can be fed into the FRSA via the FRSA App which is free to download, contains a number of useful resources and provides an opportunity to communicate with other members plus local and national officials.

Tristan Ashby
Chief Executive Officer

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