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.
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!
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.
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