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The worth of secretarial staff

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A new survey has shown that senior secretaries and PAs now earn an average of £24,500 in London and the South-East, compared to £20,800 in the Midlands and South-West and just £20,300 in the North of England and Scotland. Those working in the City – London’s financial centre – earn higher salaries at an average of £28,900. A London-based PA to a Chief Executive will earn an average top salary of £33,000.

The regional differences are also reflected at lower levels, with junior secretaries earning £17,700 in the South-East compared to £15,200 in the Midlands and South-West and £14,400 in the North and Scotland.

The figures are based on results from the 2001 Office Administration Pay & Benefits Survey conducted by consultants William M. Mercer. The survey covers 11,000 administration and secretarial jobholders employed by 44 major organisations at 77 UK sites.

The average salary increase forecasted for secretarial and administrative staff in 2002 is 4.1 per cent. This has risen from 3.8 per cent last year.

For 62 per cent of the organisations, salary increases are primarily influenced by an individual’s performance. Some 15 per cent base increases on the current economic climate and 10 per cent use market levels to determine salary rises. Only 6 per cent of the participants base increases on organisational performance. A number of companies use other factors.

Employee benefits
All of the respondents offer secretaries a pension and life assurance and more than eight out of ten (82 per cent) provide private medical cover. A season ticket loan is offered by 83 per cent of organisations, while three-quarters provide subsidised lunches. Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of secretaries receive subsidised gym membership. The average holiday allowance for secretaries is 24 days.

Flexible working
More than three-quarters of respondents (77 per cent) allow staff greater flexibility than the 9am-5pm working day, which is traditional to these types of office administration roles. Of these companies, 96 per cent allow employees to stagger their start and finish times. Five years ago, the figure was 78 per cent.

“Allowing staff to vary their hours encourages a sense of partnership between the employer and employee and fosters a give-and-take attitude towards work,” said David Wreford, Senior Consultant at William M. Mercer. “However, this is not the same as flexitime, where individuals ‘clock in and out’ of work – this approach is declining in popularity as it can encourage a time-watching mentality.”

The opportunity to work reduced hours is provided by almost four in ten (39 per cent) of the companies surveyed. Some 11 per cent of eligible employees choose to work reduced hours.

Interestingly, only half (51 per cent) of the respondents believe that offering flexible working helps attract employees to the organisation. However, almost all of them (96 per cent) believe that it helps retain staff.

Attracting staff
Despite the growing use of internet technology, local newspaper advertising and recruitment agencies are still the most popular means of recruiting administrative and secretarial staff. While 4 out of 10 respondents (38 per cent) advertise vacancies on their own websites, only 55 per cent said this method was effective. Only 12 per cent advertise on external, fee-for-service recruitment sites.

“Although more companies are using the internet to recruit graduates or staff into technical and communication roles, traditional methods are still the most effective for attracting office administration staff,” said Mr Wreford. “Applicants for these types of jobs are more likely to join an agency or look in the newspapers than search the internet.”

Retaining staff
Offering staff training and opportunities for career development is considered an effective way to retain staff by 98 per cent of companies. Nearly nine in ten companies (89 per cent) felt that giving employees challenging work assignments helps to retain staff, and believed that high-quality supervision and leadership was effective. Only 22 per cent used pay increases above the going market rate as a way to hold on to staff.

Copies of Mercer’s 2001 Office Administration Pay and Benefits Survey Report cost £1,000 and are available from Louise Gamble on 01753 848168 or at [email protected]

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