Changes to pay in 2011

12th March 2012

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Results from the 2012 IEMA practitioners survey revealing the changes in environment professionals' pay during 2011

At the outset of 2012, the economic outlook in the UK continues to appear uncertain as the age of austerity starts to bite for many people. The economic recession that started in 2008 has still not really lifted in terms of key labour market indicators such as employment levels and pay increases.

The unemployment rate continues to rise and January figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed a 0.3% increase during September–November 2011, bringing the figure up to 8.4% of the economically active population. The unemployment rate has not been higher since 1995.

An examination of pay rises compared with increases in the cost of living make for further gloomy reporting. Pay analysts at XpertHR note that, throughout 2011, pay award levels remained subdued. Although the levels seen – around 2% throughout most of the year – represent an increase on the awards made during the recession years of 2009 and 2010, they continue to fall well below the typical pre-recession levels of between 3% and 3.5%.

Pay rises of around 2% in 2011 do not come close to the inflationary rise in the UK cost of living throughout most of that year – which reached 4.8% as measured by the retail prices index (RPI) and 4.2% according to the consumer prices index (CPI) in December 2011, for example.

During the recession years, pay freezes were widely reported across the economy as many employers sought to off set the harsh economic climate in which they found themselves. The public sector is still at the sharp end of virtually a blanket pay freeze for employees. But on a positive note, in January 2012 XpertHR said that the proportion of employers reporting a pay freeze had fallen to just 7.2%, one of the lowest levels seen since the beginning of the recession.

This downward trend in the number of pay freezes is not reflected in the profile of pay changes for environment professionals taking part in our survey, however. As figure 7 (below) shows, well over one-third of respondents (36.1%) told us that their pay had stagnated during 2011, and 6.6% report a salary cut.

Nevertheless, more than half (54.2%) said that they had received a salary increase during the year. These figures show a marginal improvement on last year’s survey findings, when 37.2% said that their salaries had not increased and 7.1% reported a pay cut.

For those reporting salary increases in our 2012 survey, the changes are concentrated in two regions: 42.5% report an increase of between 1% and 3%, and 18.5% report an rise greater than 10% – but this latter figure is likely to reflect individuals being promoted rather than a general increase in pay.

Data from previous surveys reveal how total earnings have changed over the past seven years. Generally, there is an overall increase in practitioners’ salaries, although the pattern varies considerably by membership level. Graduate members show the smallest increase since 2007 (graduates were not included in the 2005 survey), of just under £1,500.

This small increase is firmly in line with wider graduate surveys that have shown a serious stagnation in the kind of starting salaries that graduates can command since the onset of the UK recession. XpertHR recently reported a pay freeze in graduate starting salaries for the third consecutive year.

The remaining membership levels show gradual but steady increases in median total earnings, with Full members’ salaries increasing by £5,250 (£40,000 to £45,250) from 2005 to 2012, Associate members by £4,000 (£31,000 to £35,000) and Affiliate members by £4,793 (£30,000 to £34,793). The relatively small number of Fellows in the 2012 sample (14) is not large enough for a meaningful comparison.

Respondents were asked about changes to any extra payments they receive, such as discretionary or performance-based bonuses. As figure 8 (below) shows, just over two-thirds of respondents (67.1%) report that bonus payments were the same in 2011 as in 2010; almost one in five (18.7%) said they had gone up; and one in 10 (10.9%) reported a decrease.

Read the full survey results:


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