The Information Commissioner’s Office has secured a major concession from the Treasury to abandon the regulator’s strict pay structure as it seeks to combat a “brain drain” triggered by increased competition from both the public and private sector, as organisations staff up in preparation for GDPR.
Last year, the Government sanctioned a major hiring spree, which will boost the ICO’s headcount from 500 to over 700. However, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has argued that this is being hampered by the regulator’s inability to compete on pay. She was backed by The Data Protection Network, which said the ICO’s recruitment woes were affecting all businesses efforts to be compliant with GDPR.
But, in a speech at the Association of Chief Executives and Public Chairs’ Forum joint event, Denham said that the Treasury had listened to her concerns and given the ICO “pay flexibility”.
She said: “I am strengthening my team in number and expertise and we’re moving the ICO to a place where we can deliver our new responsibilities and obligations to organisations and, importantly, the public. The Treasury has provided the ICO pay flexibility for the next three years – this is critically important to be able to retain our expert staff and attract new technologists, lawyers and auditors.
“We’re expecting more of everything. More breach reports, because the law requires it in high risk cases. More complaints, because people will be better informed of their rights. Greater engagement as organisations turn to us for advice at the outset. And technology is not standing still.”
Exact details of the new pay structure are unknown, although, the ICO will have to tread carefully to avoid alienating other staff. In 2015, members of the Public & Commercial Services Union working at the ICO office in Wilmslow staged a three-day walk-out after claiming that senior executives had secured “fat cat” pay rises of up to 18% while ordinary staff had been offered a deal within the 1% Treasury pay cap.
In a statement to Decision Marketing, Denham said: “I welcome the positive response to my business case for pay flexibility at the ICO.
“I am confident that this will allow me to prepare the ICO for its critical role under the new data protection regime, ensuring that the UK has a strong and expert regulator in an area recognised for its importance to the digital economy and society as a whole.”
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