Pay Review Body

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An advisory body created by the UK government to make recommendations on pay increases and pay systems for approximately 1.3 million public servants. There are five Pay Review Bodies (PRBs) at present: the Doctors and Dentists Review Body, the Armed Forces Review Body, the Senior Salaries Review Body (covering the justiciary and senior civil servants), the Nurses Pay Review Body (which covers nurses, midwives, health visitors, and professions allied to medicine, such as physiotherapists, radiographers, orthoptists, and occupational therapists), and the School Teachers Pay Review Body. The first three PRBs were established in 1971 as a means of determining fair levels of pay for groups not covered by collective bargaining. The nurses' and teachers' review bodies supplanted collective bargaining in 1983 and 1991, respectively, after major episodes of industrial action in the National Health Service and the schools. PRBs consist of a chair and committee of members appointed by the Prime Minister and are supported by an independent civil service secretariat, the Office of Manpower Economics (OME). All take evidence from interested parties, including employers and trade unions, and commission their own research. They make recommendations on pay increases and other aspects of remuneration to the appropriate government minister and, whilst these are not binding on the government, it is extremely rare for them to be ignored in their entirety. During periods of public-sector pay restraint, however, it has been common for governments to defer or stage the implementation of PRB recommendations. In recent years, the remit of PRBs has tended to broaden and, in addition to making recommendations on pay levels, they have been asked to comment on the use of pay and other reward systems to influence recruitment and retention, motivation and morale. PRBs comprise a collective system of pay determination which allows scope for independent representation of employees through trade unions but which is not based on collective bargaining between employer and employee. Discussion of the system has tended to concentrate on two issues: the independence of PRBs from government and the efficacy of the system in maintaining fair salaries for public servants. With regard to the first issue, there has been recurrent tension in the relationship between PRBs committed to maintaining fair levels of salary for public servants, and governments concerned to control the public-sector pay bill. With regard to the second, there is evidence that groups covered by PRBs have secured higher settlements than other public servants, which has led to claims that PRBs have been ‘captured’ by occupational interests and to calls for the extension of the system to other groups, such as university teachers.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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