The Government’s headline-making posting of a new HR role is being questioned over whether it pays enough.
The ‘high-profile and stretching role’ has a salary of up to £60,635 and would see the successful candidate revising HR policies and ensuring these rules are ‘fit for purpose’.
Yet, Buzzfeed reports indicated that the role would exist partly in order to reign in Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson and 10 Downing Street’s Chief Adviser.
The internet news outlet published comments from a senior civil servant – the successful applicant would operate within the civil service – which indicated the role was created in response to concerns about special advisors by Cummings.
Cummings engages in unusual HR practices – such as hiring for important positions via his blog – and is currently at the centre of allegations regarding bullying-type behaviour.
Due to the high-profile nature of the role, as well as the reported hostile environment it would operate in, there are questions regarding whether the salary would attract the right calibre of candidate.
Kevin Green, ex-CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and former HR Director at Royal Mail, said the role has a salary more aligned with that of a lower level of HR practitioner.
He believes the person best suited to the role would need much more experience.
He told HR Grapevine: “I am not convinced at all about the salary of £60k. That’s a business partner's salary in London – and not a very experienced one at that.
“Whether they’ll be able to get someone at that salary level to get someone to influence and make a difference is a different question.
“The ability to influence, persuade and convince senior civil servants, advisors and ministers would require someone with maturity, calmness, and experience.
“I think people will be attracted to it but the salary level is likely to appeal to someone who is on their second or third job in HR. I’m not sure they’ll have the experience or the skills to make that difference.”
A senior HR practitioner, speaking to HR Grapevine off the record, also believed that the job was offering a wage below market rate. "It's [ the pay for this role] not a competitive rate in the first place, and then with him [Cummings] going round firing whoever he likes would you basically just be firefighting all the time?
"Would he adhere to the policies you were paid to put in place? Would they be independent or end up being an HR mouthpiece for him?"
Martyn Finch, commenting on The Times’s story regards the role being advertised, added: “They will need to pay more than £60k to have someone who can stand up to Cummings.”
However, some believe that the role is fairly remunerated. John Adsett, a retired Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, wrote: “£60k to provide HR services for a handful of SPADs? If I were 10 years younger I'd be polishing my CV.”
Pay for the role is commensurate with current Civil Service pay grades.
Stress and working culture
Off the record, one senior practitioner, with over 20 years’ experience in the HR sector, told HR Grapevine that they would be walking into an environment that was akin to a ‘war zone’.
Dominic Cummings has already had the ex-Treasury Minister’s advisor marched off the Downing Street premises by armed police and advertised for job roles which indicated a burnout working environment.
He also told a meeting of special advisors that he would only be seeing some of them next week – a comment that was described as ‘unkind’.
Yet, Green is ‘not convinced that the solution’ for these issues is to hire for a sole HR role.
He added: “It’s more than HR. The Prime Minister set some kind of ground rules and ways of behaving that I think are quite important, so things operate effectively.
“The common view – I’ve seen this on Twitter – is that they haven’t really thought this through.”
Yet, one bolshy commenter believes that HR is actually best placed to sort this mess out and “managing Cummings can easily be done via HR”.
Commenting under the alias ‘Helios', one person wrote: “Managing Cummings can easily done by a middle HR manager using the existing HR rules. Brief Cummings on the staff rules including bullying and dress code then set an annual performance target to demonstrate behaviours consistent with such rules.
“If he fails to perform, then put him on a restoring efficiency review during which time he will receive no pay rise. If no improvement, then action HR to dismiss or demote him.”
Cummings faces constant criticism over his dress style which is not to usual business standards. He has been referred to as a “mad professor” and “evil genius” and was previously behind the successful campaign to leave the EU.