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Figurines are seen in front of displayed stock graph and word "Inflation" in this illustration taken June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Real wages in decline as inflation continues to outstrip pay, finds XpertHR


  • In the three months to the end of November 2022, the whole-economy basic pay rise has risen to 5%, its highest level for 31 years
  • Employers work to mitigate the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on cash-strapped workers

The latest data from XpertHR shows that pay awards are at their highest level for 31 years and are worth a median 5% in the three months to the end of November 2022. However, inflation continues to outstrip pay increases by a wide margin, meaning real wages are in decline and are predicted to continue falling for some time.

Latest pay award findings:

Based on the outcome of 25 wage reviews with effective between 1 September and 30 November 2022, XpertHR finds:

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  1. Median pay awards move to 5%. The midpoint whole economy basic pay settlement over the rolling quarter to the end of November 2022 has reached 5%, up one percentage point on last month’s figure
  2. Majority of awards higher. Among matched sample of pay awards, almost nine in 10 (88%) of employee group received a higher pay award than at the time of their previous pay review
  3. Varying deals. Pay settlements vary markedly in value, with the lowest end of the spectrum witnessing a 2% rise and the largest increase being 10.1%

Private sector still lies ahead

The median basic increase in the private sector over the year to the end of November 2022 is 4%, compared to 2% for the 12 months to the end of November 2021. However, the 2022 median figure for the public sector lags behind at 3.8% and in 2021, public sector employees received a median basic pay award of a meagre 1.4%.

Sheila Attwood, XpertHR senior content manager, data and HR insights, said: 

“The cost-of-living crisis continues to be high on the agenda of many pay setters as a tumultuous year draws to a close. A sharp spike in inflation coupled with a tight labour market has inevitably placed an upward pressure on wages. December will be a crucial month given the current wave of industrial action taking place in the UK, in what is being described as another ‘Winter of Discontent’. It is more important than ever that employers seek to strike the right balance between employees’ pay expectations and affordability.”

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