Court staff paid as little as £17,000 a year are increasingly leaving their jobs just as the service needs more people to solve its backlog crisis.
Unions representing court workers say it is ‘completely unacceptable’ that the Ministry of Justice continues to be one of the lowest-paying civil service departments. The head of HM Courts & Tribunals Service has admitted the government needs to address the fact that court workers are paid around £3,000 less than people with equivalent roles in other civil service departments.
A freedom of information request by the Gazette has revealed that HMCTS staff in the lowest band of the seven band are paid on average £17,549, rising to £20,547 for the next level. Salaries are less for court ushers, who in the lowest band are paid £17,083 on average outside London (the figure rises to £18,777 for those working in the London region). By way of comparison, the average starting salary for case workers at the Department for Work and Pensions is around £19,500.
Speaking at a justice committee evidence session earlier this year, acting HMCTS chief executive Kevin Sadler said: ‘My staff would not forgive me if I did not say that HMCTS staff are among the lowest paid in the civil service, and we need to address that.
‘Their commitment to their work keeps them at work and has kept them at work through the pandemic, and I pay testament to everything they have done during that period. We have a challenge on low pay, and I would like to be able to address that and I am keen to do so with the Ministry.’
Sadler said the Ministry of Justice has a pay case sitting with the Treasury that is awaiting approval, but in the meantime attrition rates are continuing to creep up.
Staff turnover for March 2021 was 10.7% – the highest since April 2020 and up from 9.8% in August. However, attrition rates were higher in 2018/19 and 2019/20 when on average 11% of staff left the service.
The PCS union, which represents court workers said the issue of salaries and wider working conditions was crucial at a time when the government is trying to reduce the outstanding case backlog which has increased significantly during the pandemic.
Industrial officer Laura Bee said: ‘Due to HMCTS relying heavily on agency staff to fill the gaps due to high staff turnover, the court backlog is likely to continue. It is clear that the MoJ must address the pay issue and how they treat staff, if they stand any chance of improving morale.’