The 1% cap on public sector pay rises in England and Wales (which came into force in 2010) is to be lifted. The first professions to benefit will be police officers and prison officers. The government has announced that for the 2017/2018 FY police officers will receive a 1% pay rise plus a 1% bonus and prison officers will get a 1.7% rise, both of which will be funded from existing departmental budgets.
Public sector pay was initially frozen for two years in 2010, except for those earning under £21,000 per year, and since 2013 pay rises have been capped at 1%. The relaxation of the cap by the government is not unexpected, as much concern has been raised about its impact on staff recruitment, retention and morale, with recommendations from pay review bodies for the police and prison services echoing these concerns. The Police Federation of England and Wales recently reported that morale among the police force had fallen due to changes to policing pay, workload and benefits, with more than 86% of police officers reporting that they did not feel fairly paid.
However, whilst the shift in policy to end the cap is likely to be welcomed, the increase has been heavily criticised for still being below the level of inflation, which is currently 2.9%. As such, for many in the public sector the introduction of a more flexible approach to pay rises will be seen as a step in the right direction, but one which also falls someway short of expectations.