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2018 British Army Pay Scales - Is Transparency a Good Thing? - The Military CEO

2018 British Army Pay Scales – Is Transparency a Good Thing?

In 2016 the British Army announced their New Employment Model (NEM) which outlined changes to, amongst other things, employee’s pay, pension and accommodation benefits.

I’ve been asked by several people to talk about what I thought about the changes and began thinking about how this could be relevant to the readers who are not employed by the British Army.

In this article I will explore the transparency of the British Army’s pay scale, how it differs to the pay scales of corporate enterprises and the pros and cons of both.

The British Army Pay Scale 2018

Below is a table that lays out the exact pay received by everyone in the British Army. Pay reflects the rank of the individual and the time served in that rank, this is achieved by the banding system.

Rank & Pay Scale of the British Army 2018

Rank & Pay Scale of the British Army 2018

To understand more about the pay scale of the British Army you must also understand how promotion from one band or rank to another works. Promotion from one band to the other is automatic and happens yearly. For example if you spend 3 years as a corporal, you will be earning £31,017, as you’ll be in band 3.

Promotion isn’t as ‘automatic’ but if you’re relatively competent, in the majority of cases, you’ll know when you’re going to promote from one rank to another (within a couple of years). This is because there is a stipulated minimum amount of time everyone must spend in each rank. Once you become ‘in-zone’ i.e. you’re now eligible to promote, your reports will go to a board where they decide if you promote that year or not.

What Are the Positives of a Structured Pay Scale?


A system like this allows employees to predict, with a level of confidence, when they should expect their next pay rise. This clearly has benefits when trying to plan one’s financial situation. It allows employees to consider the affordability of babies, holidays and new cars whilst considering what will and won’t be affordable in the future. This prevents employees from ‘hedging their bets’ on that big promotion or pay rise that they might just not get.


This ties in to the previous point to a certain extent. Unlike bonuses or unpredictable pay rises, having a system such as the British Army’s assures employees that they’re guaranteed a certain wage, which at least within their rank, is guaranteed to go up for between 5-7 years.


This system means that both the employer and employee are being open and honest about employee’s pay. It eliminates the risk of salary based rumours and reduces the risk of employee dissatisfaction. As a public service organisation transparency, especially concerning finance, is of course imperative.


A system like this means that the risk of inequality of pay is reduced significantly. 2 people doing the same job in the same rank with same experience (time served) will earn the exact same salary regardless of gender, race or religion. Read my recent article about The British Army’s Policy on Equality and Diversity to understand why this is so important in a work place.

Of course, one could argue that there is still a possibility for inequality due to the subjectivity of the promotion process – but even this is very unlikely!

Equality in the British Army

Equality in the British Army

Appropriate Pay

When everyone’s salary, from the newest recruit to the Commanding Officer, is public knowledge it forces the people at the top of the chain who set the pay scale to ensure the pay of all employees is justifiable and appropriate. This prevents the high ranked employees (CEO equivalents) from being paid astronomical salaries and bonuses whilst those at the bottom are suffering.


It is my opinion that when those lower down the ranks can clearly see the salaries of those above, and see that the salary of the CEO is not over 10 times that of someone new to the company (which can often be the case in civilian organisations), it allows those in charge to communicate with their subordinates in a much more empathetic way. This reduces any resent for the Chain of Command and allows all employees (regardless of rank) to focus on the team goals. More can be read about The British Army’s 2017 Leadership Code.

The 9 values and standards of the British Army

The British Army’s Values and Standards

What Are the Cons of a Structured Pay System?


When your salary is set in stone and has limitations on it based on time served and qualifications held, it leaves little opportunity for an employee to excel in the workplace in the hope of a pay rise/bonus. Admittedly, if you excel in the British Army you’re more likely to gain a promotion and subsequently receive a better salary but there are still limits.


Likewise if you know that whilst you may not promote, your salary is guaranteed to increase by up to £1,500 a year for the next 5-7 years, it could breed complacency in the work place.


Highly ranked officers in the British Army are frequently  in charge of over 400 people. With regards to the ‘Appropriate Pay’ point above, it could be argued that a structured pay system does not allow enough of an incentive to remain in the organisation when their peers (managing over 400 people in a civilian environment) could expect to earn over £200,000.

Could a Civilian Company Adopt a Similar Pay Structure?

In short, my opinion is that they couldn’t, although they’d be better people orientated organisations if they could. The reason I don’t think they could is the fundamental differences in a public sector organisation compared to a capitalist one. In an ordinary company you need to be profitable, this might mean paying above the odds for the right person for the job, freezing salaries because you’ve had a bad year, giving someone a pay rise because you don’t want to lose them or a bonus to reflect the money they’ve made for the company.

In the British Army, we all knew the pay structure and what we could expect to earn before we joined up – so we can’t complain! Similar systems are used in other public sector organisations such as the police force and the NHS. Other not-for-profit organisations such as charities have also been known to adopt similar systems.

Have Your Say

If you work for either a public service or civilian organisation/company I’d be interested to hear your opinions on the pros and cons listed above and perhaps any that I’ve not considered! Let me know in Your Thoughts or comment below and as always i’ll reply and may even elaborate on your thought in a future post.

-The Military CEO


2018 New British Army Equality And Diversity Campaign


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  1. John Bilby

    You forgot to mention another point. Not everyone in the armed forces is financially driven. Rank and status is valued more than pay. There is no complacency as everyone is striving to attain the next rank and most work above their pay band to achieve this. A weird concept for a civilian to understand but most don’t do for the money.

    • Richard Philips

      Hi John, I think it’s a really valid point that you raise. It’s certainly applicable to those who are perhaps in their first 10-15 years. I’ve got to say though I see a lot of senior soldiers and LE’s priorities change away from the values of being employed by the MOD towards the practicalities of requiring a better pay rise etc. Although(!) by that point of seniority most are more than happy with chasing the pension and stay in anyway!

    • N

      You don’t need to worry about money. These are salaries that most normal people in Civve Street could only dream about. And before you mention the “X factor” , working 7 days a week, etc., this might be the case on ops, but over a career average …

  2. Pete Brunton

    My gut feel is that we need to find a way to break the current tight binding between rank and reward. Often for specialists the only way to reward an individual is to recommend them for promotion, and if selected this moves them away from their specialisation into a role they’re not actually suited toward. Sadly, the alternative is for their finacial reward to stagnate once they reach the maximum increment in their current rank.

    I would like to be able to recognise excellence in an individual with status, such as membership of one of the Messes, not necessarily linked to financial reward, or with a financial reward that isn’t necessarily linked to a promotion or change in role.

    The offer at the moment is a one size fits all package, based on the common denominator of an Infantry Battalion model. Increasingly, retaining technical specialists is going to require a more flexible, multi-faceted approach.

  3. Stu M

    “2 people doing the same job in the same rank with same experience (time served) will earn the exact same salary regardless of gender, race or religion. “

    Not quite true, far from from it. One quick example… 2 REME WO2s, both posted as CSMs, 1 is TSS and the other a VM. Both OR7-6 pay scale. There’s a difference of @ £4K due to one being Supp 1 and the other Supp 3. Same capbadge, same rank, same job! The argument about being trade related is moot when both are in the same role at the same organisation.

    Supp 1. Supp 3
    OR-7-8 £42,711 £44,388 £45,985
    OR-7-7 £41,880 £43,781 £45,658
    OR-7-6 £41,002 £42,903 £45,014
    OR-7-5 £40,122 £41,799 £43,777

    • B Jones

      A WOII will not be a VM but an artificer Vehicles, a position requiring much more knowledge than a WOII RSS. To achieve WOII as a VM he will have had to go through selection for artificer training and a very stiff 18 month course. There is no such barrier on RSS promotions which is why lots of tradesmen convert to RSS at Sgt level as it’s the only way they will get promotion.

  4. James

    Interesting stuff. A couple of headline thoughts: 1. Military salaries are relatively good ones for lower and middle management, especially when additional benefits are counted in. 2. Prior to the 1980s most organisations’ pay scales looked more like these. The (relatively) small pay differentials were compensated for by a very clear social hierarchy and non financial obeisance which separated Executives and Employees. Formal and social deference to rank is a feature of Armed Forces life. 3. The ‘old’ system rewarded time served more than talent, but no-one got entirely left behind. That is still broadly true of the Forces’ system.

    In summary, the Armed Forces pay system harks back to earlier period where social cohesion was more highly valued than allowing talent to maximise its monetary benefits. This financial restriction on the highest fliers was compensated for by the rewards of public deference and social esteem.

  5. Augustine Effah

    Although the financial aspect is very important, but my passion for British Army job is very superior. I will be honoured and privileged to join the British army.

  6. Philip Arlington

    The photo labelled “Equality in the British Army” doesn’t necessarily show any such thing. All it shows is people of different races and a woman. There is no possible way of knowing from the photo whether they were appointed to their current rank fairly on the basis of their individual merits. You also, in line with the prevailing culture, ignore the possibility that two people doing the same job might differ in quality, in which case if they are paid the same I would argue that the better one is subsidising the less capable or hardworking.

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