Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Labour Turnover

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 14 September 2023.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Independent, Solihull

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what information their Department holds on the level of staff retention; and what steps they are taking to improve staff retention.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Civil service turnover in Defra was 8.7% in the 12 months up to March 2023, including all four executive agencies: the Animal and Plant Health Agency; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; the Rural Payments Agency; and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

Defra is addressing turnover by using the following approaches:

  • The additional flexibility to the 2022 Civil Service pay remit guidance of a one-off, non-consolidated payment of £1500 per full time employee that was announced in the spring. These payments were paid in August salaries to eligible staff across Defra group.
  • Seeking to take advantage of the flexibility set out in the 2023 Civil Service pay remit guidance of pursuing pay flexibility cases. The pay remit guidance also set out an average award of up to 4.5% plus 0.5% which can be targeted towards the lowest paid. These proposals set out to make best use of the money available and target retention where appropriate. There are also existing mechanisms such as allowances that can be used to address any identified retention pressures.
  • Building talent attraction and outreach capability to build awareness of our roles and departmental mission whilst targeting hard to recruit roles.
  • Continuing to develop our employee offer and evolve how we position that internally and externally to engage a multigenerational workforce to support staff retention. ​
  • Improving engagement through development of the Future Defra Story so people understand their contribution to the wider Defra group aims. Future Defra’s ‘Thriving people’ pillar aims that Defra is ‘a destination organisation by investing in people so they can enjoy their job and feel valued’.
  • Developing career pathways will enable staff to proactively manage their careers supported by great learning and development opportunities including the use of apprenticeships.​
  • Growing our understanding of staff’s reasons for leaving through an improved exit questionnaire leading to insights for future interventions.
  • Using specialist pay allowances while we explore longer term pay solutions for business-critical specialist roles that are critical to policy or delivery priorities.

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