These statistics provide relevant and trusted information on pay in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS). They support pay negotiations and equality monitoring for the NICS.
In requesting this assessment, the statistics team at the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is demonstrating its commitment to produce Pay in the NICS statistics that meet the standards required of National Statistics and the Code of Practice for Statistics.
We judge that these statistics meet the highest standards of the Code and we have not identified any requirements for the statistics to achieve National Statistics status. OSR therefore recommends that the UK Statistics Authority designate the statistics as National Statistics.
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What we found
Statistics on Pay in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) have been produced annually since 2011/12. The statistics are used widely to understand the distribution and equality of pay in the NICS. Users are invited to feed into the development of the Pay in the NICS statistics through the annual HRCS Customer Satisfaction Survey, which looks to collect feedback on both the statistics and the service provided by the statistics team. The statistics team made several improvements to the 2021 Pay in the NICS bulletin in response to user feedback, some of which we heard in user feedback for this assessment, to improve the clarity and accessibility of the statistics.
Where users have perceived there to be data gaps, the statistics team has been open and receptive to exploring the feasibility of producing these breakdowns. We found a common area of interest for users is the desire to make comparisons of pay for civil servants across the UK. The statistics team showed enthusiasm and willingness to work with its counterparts across the UK to explore the feasibility of filling this data gap to improve the coherence of pay statistics for the UK. We would encourage the statistics team to take forward this idea to understand whether the user need for UK wide comparable statistics on Civil Service pay exists outside of Northern Ireland.
We found that users had no concerns about the quality and methods used to produce the Pay in the NICS statistics. The data suppliers and statistics team have strong relationships which make it easier to identify and respond to errors. The statistics team has demonstrated its understanding about the strength and limitations of the data by publishing a Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) report, which details the quality elements of the statistics such as data collection, quality assurance and potential bias.
In 2021, the statistics team has made efficiency improvements to the production process to improve the timeliness of their output, in response to user feedback about the timeliness of the statistics. The team is exploring additional changes to streamline the production process. This includes submitting a proposal to the NISRA Tech Lab, to assess the possibility of automating the production of the bulletin.
The statistics team adopts and exhibits best practice on data governance. We heard from one of the regulator bodies in Northern Ireland that it was so impressed by HRCS’ approach to data governance and confidentiality, that it has taken this best practice and adopted it in its own organisation. This is a great example of sharing best practice and demonstrating trustworthiness in statistics production.
We heard from users that it is valuable to be able to refer to independently produced pay statistics, when talking to senior leaders or trade unions about pay as they are free from political pressure. The statistics team is seen as professional, capable and helpful. The roles are clearly defined and the internal workplan sets out the timeline and responsibilities for publishing the statistics each year, which even includes user engagement activity.
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