After Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled his plans in the new Budget this week, he has faced criticism for failing to reverse policy that would see a pay freeze instated, targeting public sector workers

Workers’ unions including the GMB and the TUC have spoken out against the Chancellor’s decision to follow through on freezing public sector pay.

This policy was hoped to ‘level the field’ in terms of public and private sector pay, allowing the latter to recover from the financial effects of COVID-19.

However, research from the Resolution Foundation last year showed that the public sector were already facing a pay restraint. There were significant concerns that if the pay freeze went ahead, this would target the earners within this group who were already facing a 7.9 per cent pay penalty compared to private sector workers in similar roles.

Mr. Sunak justified his decision to carry out the year-long pay freeze to public sector salaries as a move which was intended to “protect those public sector jobs”. He claimed that it was “reasonable to take a more targeted approach to public-sector pay this year.”

The pay-freeze was branded as an “insult” to public sector workers by Rehana Azam, National Officer of the GMB, who said:

The chancellor can dance around his living room with the ministerial red box all he wants, but all this Budget shows to public sector workers is that his clapping is a worthless gesture.

When it comes down to it, the big ‘love-in’ and ‘immense praise’ has amounted to nothing for the workers that carried us through the pandemic.

Nor has he changed the super-spreader policy of poverty sick pay that prevents people from self-isolating.

This Budget is an insult to the millions of NHS, schools, care, local government workers who have seen us through this crisis.

This sentiment was also echoed by Frances O’Grady, General Secretary for the TUC:

After a year of key workers going above and beyond, it’s an insult that the Chancellor announced no new support for our hard-pressed NHS or public services and no guarantee of a decent pay rise for all our public sector key workers.

It is expected that this pay freeze will affect around 2.6 million workers within the public sector. However, the Chancellor called his decision “fair” and “proportionate” when considering the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector, assessing that these same effects were not recorded amongst the public sector.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.