The fragmentation of pay determination in the British civil service: A union member perspective

Kessler, Ian, Heron, Paul and Gagnon, Suzanne (2006) The fragmentation of pay determination in the British civil service: A union member perspective. Personnel Review, 35 (1). pp. 6-28.


Purpose – The purpose of this article is to evaluate employee perceptions of pay practice in civil service executive agencies in the wake of changes in the established institutions of pay determination.

Design/methodology/approach – A survey design drawing original data from 1,057 civil servants, all members of the IPMS (now merged with EMA to form Prospectus), the union representing scientific, technical and professional occupations in the civil service.

Findings – The study distinguishes four distinctive pay practice systems. Pay satisfaction is found to be positively related to two principles: a clear effort-reward link and an understanding of pay criteria. However, employees are more satisfied with pay when their organisational pay system accords with traditional rather than newer practices. This suggests that embedded norms continue to exert a powerful influence over employee perceptions of pay.

Research limitations/implications – Whilst the respondent profile accurately reflects those working in the scientific, professional and technical grades (predominantly male, white, full-time workers), aspects of this profile do not accurately reflect the civil service as a whole.

Practical implications – Old habits “die hard”. A sobering message for those practitioners who readily assume that forced change in pay systems will elicit “desired” employee responses.

Originality/value – Against a backdrop of fundamental changes in the character of pay determination in the civil service, this study presents employee perceptions of pay practices, shows how they combine in ways that reflect a distinct set of pay systems and reveals the impact associated with these systems on attitudes and behaviours.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Civil Service; Employee attitudes; Pay policies; Pay structures; Remuneration; United Kingdom
Subject(s): Organisational behaviour
Centre: Faculty of Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2012 12:00
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:06

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