Battening down the hatches
Inside Housing’s exclusive salary survey shows it’s been a difficult 12 months for most housing employees. Simon Brandon reports on the regime of pay freezes and increased workloads introduced by organisations as they battle the economic gloom
First, the good news. According to Inside Housing’s exclusive 2011 salary survey, conducted by recruiter Hays Social Housing, two-thirds of the sector’s employees are either very or fairly satisfied in their current role. And when it comes to the question of work/life balance, a healthy 83 per cent say theirs is either good or OK.
That aside, however, even the most committed Pollyanna will struggle to find much about which to be positive. The housing sector’s employees are facing heavier workloads and lighter wallets, ongoing pay freezes and uncertainty about the future.
Last year’s salary survey (Inside Housing, 20 October 2010) was a reflection of the prevailing economic climate. This year the murk shows little sign of easing.
Two-thirds of social housing employees say they have not received a salary increase over the past year, and the same proportion does not expect one in the coming 12 months. Their employers concur, to a degree: 49 per cent say they don’t expect to hand out any salary increases over the next year.
‘We can say, with a degree of certainty, that the short-term picture is that salaries are stuck where they are at the moment,’ says Richard Gelder, director of social housing at Hays.
Housing officers are the worst off; their pay has dropped an average of 0.2 per cent on last year. Our tables show that modest average salary increases elsewhere are being well outstripped by inflation, which hit 5.2 per cent this month.
As if earning less in real terms wasn’t enough, employees are having to work harder for their pay cheques. Almost three-quarters - 72 per cent - of respondents said they were doing more work without being compensated for it.
Feeling the squeeze
Mr Gelder believes that traditionally job satisfaction has been more important than pay for housing sector employees - but in today’s economic gloom, that appears to be changing.
‘Now pay is becoming an issue partly because pay has been frozen and also because everybody is feeling a squeeze because of rising inflation. People have less money in their pockets,’ he says.
‘People are facing a triple whammy. Their pay has been frozen, they have had more work to do than before, and new policies and regulation are making work more stressful. Then they go home and have less buying power.’
Spare a thought for the sector’s employers, too. They have to try to keep their staff happy and motivated with dwindling resources - and as most employers indicate, there will be major challenges for them in maintaining levels of service delivery and performance improvement in the face of these obstacles.
The waiting game
So what would Pollyanna, the eternal optimist, have to say about all this? Gordon Brown has been widely ridiculed for the promise, in his last Budget speech as chancellor, that there would be no return to boom and bust. If that cycle never actually went away, then perhaps it’s simply a question of sitting tight and waiting for the clouds to break.
That is an attitude Mr Gelder believes he has noticed. ‘There seems to be real solidarity in terms of organisations battening down the hatches,’ he says. It can’t rain forever, after all.
This year 413 housing staff and employers responded to Hays Social Housing’s annual salary survey. They answered questions on everything from their salaries to how the recession has impacted on their careers and what challenges they expect in the next 12 months. Here’s what they said:
The employee respondents
15% are project managers
14% are housing officers
11% are housing managers
29% have worked in the sector for five years or less
26% have worked in the sector for more than 15 years
26% are based in London
3% are based in Scotland
2% are based in Wales
33% of employees expect to receive a pay rise in the next 12 months
21% of employees think salaries in the social housing sector are not competitive
66% of employees received no pay rise in the past 12 months