Following inconclusive talks brokered by mediation service ACAS, the family courts body has implemented its offer for 2022-23 without resolving its pay dispute and in the face of overwhelming opposition from union members, said Napo and UNISON.
However, the unions said that, as far as they were concerned, the dispute was not over.
The 2.51% pay increase amounts to a substantial real-terms pay cut, with inflation having been running at at least 9% since April 2022, from when the rise will be backdated.
It was determined by a pay remit set by Cafcass’s sponsor department, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), under which the family courts body could only increase its overall salary bill by 3% in 2022-23, in line with civil service rules. Cafcass has split this into a 2.51% across-the-board rise to salaries and London weighting, with the remainder set aside for promotions and pay progression.
Bigger pay rises for NHS and council social workers
As well as being a real-terms cut, the deal, worth about £1,000 or just over to the average family court adviser (FCA), is also of less value than the increases for social workers in the NHS (£1,400-£1,833, depending on salary) or those in local government (£1,925) in England.
The significant difference with council staff – who have received better deals than Cafcass counterparts in six out of the last seven years – has led the family courts body’s chief executive, Jacky Tiotto, to warn of an exodus of staff on the grounds of pay.
Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Cafcass decided the dispute was over. As far as we’re concerned, the dispute is not over, notwithstanding the fact that the employer is now going to impose the pay award. Our position has always been that the employer cannot impose the pay award. We understand members are desperate for money.”
Lawrence also said that Cafcass could have offered staff a higher across-the board pay offer than 2.51% by delaying a management restructure that will give practice supervisors the opportunity to manage up to four FCAs, with increased pay.
Unions seek meeting with minister
Napo and UNISON members met last Thursday (19 January) to decide on their next steps.
Lawrence said the unions’ key ask was for Cafcass to help secure a meeting with justice minister Lord Bellamy so they can plead their case for a better deal for staff. However, he said Cafcass has not done this, though the unions have written directly to Bellamy requesting a meeting.
Cafcass did not confirm whether it had imposed the pay deal.
In a statement, the family courts body said: “We secured the maximum pay increase possible within the civil service pay guidance and have fully utilised that within this year’s award.”