Pay deal agreed for council social workers

Salaries to rise by 2.75% in 2020-21, above inflation, but well short of unions' 10% claim, which was designed to tackle decade-long fall in real wages

pay key on keyboard
Photo: md3d/Fotolia

Council social workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will see their pay rise by 2.75% this year after employers reached a deal with two of the three unions.

The pay rise for 2020-21, backdated to April, is above the rate of inflation – currently 1.1 % on the government’s preferred CPI measure, though slightly higher on the unions’ preferred RPI rate – and the biggest granted to council staff in over a decade. However, it falls well short of the 10% claimed by the unions and will only make a small dent in the 21.8% fall in real wages they calculate council social workers have endured since 2009-10.

The pay deal for staff covered by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services agreement, which covers the majority of councils in the three countries, also includes an increase in the minimum level of annual leave for staff with less than five years’ service, from 21 to 22 days.

It was backed by UNISON and GMB but not by Unite, whose members rejected it in a vote; however will be implemented nonetheless because of the backing from the majority of the unionos.

“Council staff have gone above and beyond to keep communities safe and services running over the past few months,” said Jon Richards, head of local government, whose members voted two to one to approve the deal.

“Work will now begin on next year’s claim and employers must work with us to secure additional funding from the government. This is so council workers get the decent, fair reward they deserve.”

However, Unite’s national officer for local government, Jim Kennedy, said: “Unite’s council employees have by a majority of 70 per cent rejected the derisory 2020 pay offer that was made by the Local Government Employers in the midst of the pandemic.

“This was at the very same time local government workers were, quite literally, placing their lives on the line to protect their communities…It is deeply unsatisfactory and insulting.”

More from Community Care

34 Responses to Pay deal agreed for council social workers

  1. A Man Called Horse August 27, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

    The Tories will soon lauch Austerity part 2 onto the workforce, so enjoy it while it lasts. Likely the bill for Covid19 will soon come in and they will increase your tax and NI contributions. There is a hard decade ahead as the money printing machines start running down. We will never get that 20% back ever and with the Government technically bankrupt there is trouble ahead. I predict job cuts,more restructures, cuts to services and Local Authorities forced to slash and burn. We have little power to influence pay and the Unions are weak in the face of the mass unemployment coming our way.I paint a bleak picture of the future ahead of us because its the truth. The North will be betrayed again as the levelling up talked about doesn’t materialise. We may see a levelling down as living conditions are downgraded and poverty goes through the roof. Land of Hope and glory anyone?

    • Margaret Logan August 29, 2020 at 9:40 am #

      I have to agree with you. It’s so sad because the most vulnerable of our society will, yet again, pay the price. History never changes in that direction it just gets worse.

    • Anonymous August 31, 2020 at 5:31 pm #

      I will have to agree with you too mate. It is so sad that the people who are more likely to benefit from such a service are very unlikely going to due to all the burecracy that has and always risks to be the case if nothing changes. Really sad.

  2. Kenneth Howard August 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm #

    Great opportunity for BASW to ride on the back of LA unions to increase the pay of their agency workers.

    • Rob Handy August 28, 2020 at 8:40 am #

      I had contacted the SWU (BASW’s union) to try and find out what they were doing about the pay, and i didn’t get very far. I’m trying to get more informaiton about what they are actually doing for SW’s claim for fair pay, but i’m not holding my breath.

    • Eric August 28, 2020 at 1:30 pm #


  3. Phil Sanderson August 27, 2020 at 7:42 pm #

    Yet another capitulation by union leadership on pay at least Unite recommended rejection and their members backed them. It shows a real fight over pay has once again been chucked away by spineless union officials absolutely pathetic given what we have just gone through!

    • Rob Handy August 28, 2020 at 8:41 am #

      I guess 2.75% is better than nothing, and sometimes you have to draw a line. If All the unions had declined the offer then there likely would be no offer, no pay rise at all, and the fight continues. When you employer is essentially the Government, no employee has sharp enough teeth to challenge at the moment i don’t think.

      • Margaret Logan August 29, 2020 at 9:55 am #

        Rob Handy
        I understand where you are coming from. However my own opinion is that Social Workers working in LA roles have an enormous responsibility ( as you are aware) and work long hours, especially in front line work with no extras, e.g. overtime or time of in lieu, which you might manage some time off in lieu if you are lucky.
        As a retired front line worker, my salary remained the same for most of the years before I retired picking up a 1% payrise in a decade and paying it back in tax and NI contributions. Technically taking away any visible extra in my account on “pay day”. I get your point, any pay rise is better than none. However I truelly believe the size and frequency of the pay rise does not reflect the work (and often the danger) that Social Workers actually do.

      • Stacy August 30, 2020 at 6:07 pm #

        It is nothing

  4. Hilton Dawson August 27, 2020 at 11:40 pm #

    Archaic, arcane, institutionalised ‘negotiating’ arrangements undertaken by massive trade unions, out of touch with frontline work, determined to exclude smaller trade unions from their exclusive club
    Did anybody ever imagine this process would produce anything really worth having – just posturing & then carrying on uselessly as before.

    • Philip O'Hara August 30, 2020 at 9:25 am #

      Indeed Hilton D, quite correct.

  5. jim August 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm #

    Dont waste any more money on Union fees. They are doing nothing to protect the pay,terms and conditions of social workers. Social workers would fare no worse [and be better off by saving the union fees] dealing with the employers privately as they can vote with their feet and go to the Councils or agency paying a better rate. The Councils need to recruit and retain social workers by law so they are not going to treat them any differently whether the unions exist or not

    • Tony August 28, 2020 at 11:39 pm #

      Good luck with your private discussions with employers they will pick you off one by one its called divide and rule. The key is to recruit more union members in line with collective bargaining. It’s easy to blame union leaders when any union or collective is only as strong as its members. It’s a democratic process in which some people decided not to back rejection of the offer. If you dont want your 2.75 per cent pay rise jim with respect you could give it to charity instead.

    • Margaret Logan August 29, 2020 at 9:58 am #

      Here here.

  6. Andy Prior August 28, 2020 at 4:04 pm #

    If the Unions are useless perhaps we can hear what BASW and their patsies Social Workers Union achieved. What’s really pathetic is a social work membership that has no stomach for a fight. Their unions are only powerful if the members are prepared to sacrifice.

  7. Alex August 28, 2020 at 5:15 pm #

    Dear me the venom against unions and the naive belief in the power of individual negotiation and the good will of employers. If there was no national negotiation of pay and conditions none of us would have a career pay structure. I really don’t believe that social workers are so indispensable to local authorities that they would roll out the red carpet. Rather they would look to further erode our current pay an conditions. BASW has 21000 members, of course they are an irrelevance in any national negotiations. By all means bring in and embrace the free market for your pay but beware what you wish for, you might end up like your care sector colleagues and have the choice of zero you contracts or unemployment.

  8. Mel August 28, 2020 at 7:15 pm #

    Pay is just the tip of the iceberg. They’ll need to look at more than that to resolve retention issues and inspire others to train for this profession. I don’t know a social worker that is happy and many want to leave the profession, and would if they had an alternative job to go to.

  9. Ruth August 28, 2020 at 7:19 pm #

    Does this include Locum Social Workers? Why is it that everyone assume we get paid a lot more than permanent Social Workers? Permanent SW get sick pay, holiday, carers leave etc. We do not get the same benefits. If you do not work you do not get paid. If you are off sick you do get paid, in some instances some training is only afforded to permanent SW. Yes I can hear some say… it is a choice blur blur blur… that talk makes me cross. Are we not all doing Social work, are we not all taking the same workload in some cases we are allocated the most complex cases…

    • G-Man September 1, 2020 at 2:13 pm #

      Ruth agency workers like us earn, on average, double what an LA social worker takes away each month. It is a choice. We choose not to have the sick and holiday pay and take away double the earnings.

      • Miss Gee September 2, 2020 at 9:23 am #

        Wow I would love to know where you work. I don’t know any agency worker earning double that of a permanently employed one although granted we all have a choice in the matter.
        My personal experience is stagnated agency wages with no pay increase ever afforded, although then we can choose to walk away from the agency post we are in, something that i’m ready to do.
        Our permanent colleagues deserve this pay rise (actually more) but agency rates should also increase with inflation also.

  10. Jambon August 28, 2020 at 9:25 pm #

    Better than a quick in the balls and given the current climate and better than the 2% offered pre covid

  11. Sharon August 30, 2020 at 3:50 pm #

    Apparently there are about 100.000 employed social workers in England. BASW claims a membership of 21000 and Social Workers Union say they have about 13,400 members. If BASW can’t even “unionise” all of its own members I am confused as to why they keep on claiming to be the only body representing our profession. At least the legitimate Unions have a national profile Hilton. If social worker members of these unions were not so apathetic than they would have a better say in campaigns and negotiations. I speak as a shop steward who despairs at the lack of social worker participation in union activities.

  12. Ruth Andrews August 31, 2020 at 8:30 am #

    Presumably agency workers have calculated that they get something positive back from giving up sick pay and the like so not sure why permanent social workers are meant to bleed their hearts for locums for. Some here say agency worker are in control of their pay rates and are encouraging us to leave our unions and negotiate our pay individually. Interesting that questions are being asked about whether the pay agreement applies to them. This thinking is what makes me at least be a bit down on my agency colleagues. We paid our tax, we paid our NI when we were not getting any improvement in our pay. We all live with the consequences of our decisions. If you believe you need the “freedom” and the “flexibility” than expect your agency to get you a pay rise, don’t ride on the back of my union subs. Of course we are all social workers but it seems only some of us believe in solidarity.

  13. Flint September 1, 2020 at 6:47 am #

    Its time the Social work professional status was treated the same as Doctors and Nurses , with a national scale instead of local authority individual pay scales . Its time to stop treating the Social work profession as a saintly call from above rather than the qualified deeply complicated job we do.

  14. Sam September 1, 2020 at 9:33 am #

    To be a profession a discipline needs to have recognised common standards and principles reinforced by rigorous training and proper appraisal. None of this applies to social work. How can we be regarded the same as medics and nurses when good practice in social work only happens because of the dedication of individuals rather than quality training or dynamic work environments? The debacle of CPD uploading, laughable leadership, self defined academic excellence and glorified administration pitifully promoted as ethical practise, anxieties over poor communication skills hardly inspire confidence nor make a profession. If we were honest we would admit that very few of us would want to rely on some of our colleagues if we were vulnerable. I hate the protection put around doctors and some of their undeserved veneration but I know if I needed medical attention I would get a team of multidisciplinary skilled attendees working to a uniform standard. Doesn’t sound like social work really does it?

  15. Doctor reading Community Care! September 2, 2020 at 2:33 pm #

    Dear Miss Gee, G-Man said agency workers earn twice that of permanent workers ” on average” so wasn’t claiming all agency workers earned this amount. If you are not earning more than your committed permanent colleagues you should change your agency. I am sure BASW can help you do that. By the way, the average agency social worker in London apparently earns £36 an hour. Add the tax and expenses scams, a London agency social worker earns more than a junior doctor which is what I am. Sorry if I come across a bit mean, I’ve just finished my fourth consecutive 12 hour shift in A&E. I appreciate us workers shouldn’t split between ourselves but whether its a locum doctor or an agency social worker I do get a bit riled to hear how badly you seem to think you are all treated and although as you say agency workers can walk away curiously never seem to in my experience.

  16. Anon September 3, 2020 at 4:48 pm #

    All SWs whether agency or otherwise have lost out over a decade of austerity in terms of the work conditions and loss in the value of there pay, allowances and value of there pensions.

    In the next decade local authority sw will no longer exist as with schools they will be fragmented and cut off into academy style childrens trust , adult services will be taken over by health. There is no coherent voice even discussing these possibilities. Look at social work education taken out of universities and into private companies run by hedge funds ie front line, step up etc.

    As with teaching we will see more burn out and staff leaving

    As a unison member it is shocking that they have failed to provide any coherent leadership on protecting or even challenging
    These developments over the past decade

    Will or can the social work union do any better ?

  17. Millicent Grey September 4, 2020 at 8:56 am #

    Dear Anon, don’t blame Unison for the fragmentation of social work, they represent diverse members who they have tried to protect by campaigning against privatisation. Blame lies squarely with our so called leaders including self elected ones in BASW, who have enthusiastically championed a so called diversity in social care or privatisation by stealth. Its pitiful how in their enthusiasm to “professionalise” social work our weak willed and incompetent leaders have nurtured failures like Front Line undermining our ethics. They have done nothing to embed a truly collaborative response to challenging the inequalities in our society. Social work today is an inwards looking activity taking its lead from the priorities of politicians. Tweets, podcasts, “guidance” documents, self defined hero status does not make for a unified profession nor offer a healthy future. It’s time we rediscovered what the purpose of social is and I suggest it is not an activity that should be a gateway to becoming a Dame, a Sir or acceptance of lesser honours bestowed on behalf of the Empire. It is very strange that our ennobled betters feel they can opine support for Black Lives Matter and commitment to anti racism while also parading their ‘Honours’ bestowed on behalf of an Empire which rampaged through the world pillaging and enslaving.

  18. Tina September 7, 2020 at 10:52 am #

    “Just posturing and then carrying on as uselessly as before”, the perfect summary of the irrelevance of BASW and SWU to our daily struggles.

  19. Adrian September 9, 2020 at 11:11 am #

    In the current circumstances, I’m happy with any pay rise. Does anyone know when it is likely to be paid, as I couldn’t find this information anywhere. Could use that backdated money before Christmas 🙂

  20. Roybatty September 14, 2020 at 7:05 pm #

    I am getting the pay rise in this months pay, backdated to April

    • Gem September 23, 2020 at 9:51 am #

      Have your employers told you thats what happening? I haven’t heard anything about it from my LA.

  21. Karina September 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm #

    I do agree with some comments on the low pay rise but have to say this is better than 0%. I was wondering the same as Adrian, when will this pay rise occur? Hope it is before Xmas.