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Armed forces personnel will receive a 5% pay rise plus a consolidated £1,000 increase for 2023/24. This is in line with the recommendation of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) and will be backdated to 1 April 2023.

Pay award announcement

On 13 June 2023 the Government announced pay awards for all public sector bodies. Armed forces personnel up to and including 1-star rank will receive a 5% pay rise plus a further consolidated increase of £1,000.

The Ministry of Defence said the highest pay increase will be targeted towards junior service personnel, providing “effective pay increases” of between 9.7% for junior ranks and 5.8% for officers. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Glenn, said this means the lowest paid in the armed forces will receive an increase of £2,000.

Senior military personnel (two-star rank and above) will receive a 5.5% consolidated increase to pay.

Forces News observed that the armed forces are receiving a lower pay rise compared to some other public sector bodies. Police and prison officers will receive a 7% pay rise, teachers a 6.5% rise and junior doctors a 6% rise.

The pay award for the armed forces will be backdated to 1 April 2023. The AFBRB criticised the delay in implementing the award, saying that despite backdating, it has “the potential to cause real cost of living challenges for some.”

Civil service recruitment will be cut back until March 2025 to help fund the pay increase for service personnel.

How much do personnel earn?

The starting salary for service personnel, after training, will be £23,496 from 1 April 2023 (backdated). In 2022 it was £21,425.

Service personnel receive an additional pensionable payment on top of basic pay known as X-Factor. This is intended to recognise the special conditions of service life compared to civilian life. The AFPRB reviews this rate every five years and in 2023 recommended retaining the current rate of 14.5%.

The pay that an individual receives will depend on their personal circumstances and eligibility for specialist pay and allowances. 

How is armed forces pay decided

Pay for members of the armed forces is decided by the Ministry of Defence based on the recommendations of the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body. The basic principle is that pay should be broadly comparable with pay levels in civilian life. The AFPRB is expected to consider other factors, such as the Government’s inflation target, when forming recommendations.

Satisfaction with pay has fallen

Satisfaction with the rate of basic pay has dropped by 13 percentage points in the last two years. In a survey published in June 2023, before the latest announcement, less than a third of personnel (31%) said they are satisfied with the rate of basic pay. A majority of personnel (51%) do not think the pay and benefits they receive are fair for the work they do.

Recent pay awards

  • 2011-2013: public sector pay freeze
  • 2013–2018: pay capped at 1%
  • 2018: 2.0% with 0.9% non-consolidated payment
  • 2019: 2.9%
  • 2020: 2.0%
  • 2021: pay paused
  • 2022: 3.75%
  • 2023: 5% plus £1,000 consolidated payment

Future changes to pay?

An independent review of pay and reward led by Rick Haythonthwaite recommended the services move away from a uniform offer towards bespoke reward packages, tailored to reflect the changing needs of personnel as their life and career evolves. The review was published in June 2023, and the MOD incorporated its response to the review in its refreshed Defence Command Paper, published on 18 July 2023. This announces a new employment model and skills framework for the armed forces. A forthcoming Library paper will discuss the Haythornthwaite review and the new employment model.

This paper discusses in more detail recent pay awards, commentary from the AFPRB, criticisms of delays and personnel satisfaction with pay, and potential future changes.

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