The 2019 Civil Service Statistics present detailed information on Britain’s civil service, to March 2019.
For the first time, the median salaries for different professions within the Civil Service have been published.
The figures reveal that comms ranks 18th out of 29 professions in terms of pay, with an average salary of £35,750.
Although significantly higher than the overall Civil Service median of £27,080, this puts comms toward the lower end of the salary scale.
The data echoes the findings of the latest PR and Communications Census, produced by the PRCA in association with PRWeek, published in May.
It revealed that the average salary for comms people working in local government was £39,948, while for those in central government it was £37,734.
Average pay varies widely between different professions and levels of seniority within the Civil Service.
The median salary ranges from £20,230 in the administrative grades to £81,230 for senior civil servants, according to the latest statistics. This does not include the salary of Alex Aiken, executive director of government comms, who is paid at least £135,000 a year, according to a Cabinet Office transparency date published in 2016.
In terms of professions, planning inspectors have the highest median salary, at £56,350.
They are closely followed by those working in legal and economics roles, who are paid an average of £53,580 and £50,000 respectively.
Those with the lowest median salary are individuals involved in operational delivery, providing frontline government services directly to citizens or businesses – some 174,230 civil servants, who are are paid an average of £24,480.
The second-lowest-paid are those working in counter fraud, on a median salary of £26,120, followed by people in security roles, where the average is £26,160.
Comms pays better than roles in tax and human resources, where the median salaries are £30,320 and £32,070 respectively.
And it pays almost the same as commercial roles, where the average salary is just £70 a year higher.
Nonetheless, many other disciplines – from social research (£37,600) to policy (£39,850) – pay significantly more.
The statistics exclude the Northern Ireland Civil Service, other Crown servants and people working in the wider public sector, such as non-departmental public bodies and the National Health Service.
|Profession of post||Median annual salary (£)|
|Knowledge and information management||31,700|
|Digital, data and technology||36,300|
|Science and engineering||36,460|
|Inspector of education and training||49,460|
Source: Annual Civil Service Employment Survey, as at 31 March 2019
In a statement, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Civil Service communications professionals are highly valued, skilled and specialised staff who enable the effective operation of our public service."
Keeping an eye on developments
Responding to the findings, CIPR president Emma Leech told PRWeek: "PR professionals in the Civil Service play a vital role in communicating policies to the public and supporting the delivery of public services. Their efforts have a tangible impact on society and it's important they are remunerated accordingly."
She added: "While communications is shown to be the 18th-highest-paying profession in the Civil Service, there’s more to the data than first meets the eye. The difference in median figures for the 13th- and 18th-highest professions is relatively modest, while only a handful – including 'legal' and 'economics' - award significantly higher salaries than communications."
Leech commented: "We look forward to monitoring the data and identifying any trends relating to the salaries of communications professionals in the civil service in 2020."
Evaluation key in proving worth
PRCA director-general Francis Ingham said: "In every PRCA and PRWeek PR Census of the past decade, industry leaders [have identified] the recruitment and retention of talent as their number-one challenge. The reason for that is simple – we simply do not pay people well enough. As these numbers show, this issue of justifying higher salaries is as significant for the public sector as it is for the industry as a whole."
He added that the issue should be put into perspective, with "public-sector communications practitioners paid significantly above Civil Service median pay", and called for more investment in evaluation to demonstrate the worth of the profession.
Local government perspective
Simon Jones, chair of LGcomms, said: "Across the public sector the most successful organisations tend to be those that invest in strategic communications to build stronger connection with citizens and employees. Yet, we need to do more to demonstrate the net return on investment effective communications brings. Only then can we have serious discussions about how much we are worth as profession."
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