Natural England staff vote for industrial action over poverty pay

24 November 2021

Natural England staff in Prospect Union have voted to take industrial action over pay thanks to years of decreasing budgets, increased workloads and stagnating wages.


76% voted in favour of a strike with 84.7% voting in favour of action short of strike. The regulatory threshold was cleared.

Industrial action is planned to commence on 4 January 2022 with action short of strike. If no progress is made then strike action will be taken.

After 2010, workers in Natural England were subject to a pay freeze for two years, and then a 1% pay cap for five years. This improved briefly but workers were again subject to the government’s renewed freeze on public sector pay this year, meaning staff have lost a significant proportion of their real terms pay over the past decade. A Lead Advisor who started at Natural England in 2010 will have seen their real pay decline by 12% or around £5,000 since that time. The equal pay gap also remains significant at Manager/Principal level where it is 6.31%.

Prospect members have been calling on Natural England to mend its broken pay system and deliver a system that provides equal pay and parity with other Defra bodies. The current system means that the years of austerity and the recent pay pause have had a greater detriment to Natural England workers’ cost of living compared to other areas of the public sector.

Staff are committed to delivering on Natural England’s objectives but an excessive workload and a poor pay system has left them demoralised and stressed. Nearly half of staff (47%) reporting that in the last 12 months they have felt unwell as a result of work-related stress according to Natural England’s staff survey.

Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, said:

“Prospect members at Natural England have been left with no option but to vote for industrial action. Protecting the environment is not just a job to them – it is their calling – but they can’t continue to do it on a shoestring, with stagnating wages and heavy workloads.

“Ministers trumpeted their commitment to nature at the recent COP summit, but so far this has not extended to reversing the decade of real terms pay cuts they have imposed since 2010.

“The government must back up its claim to be taking the environment seriously with more funding for the environmental agencies and ensuring their own experts in the field are properly paid for the vital work that they do.

“If we are to genuinely lead the world on things like improving biodiversity, protecting our natural environment and reaching Net Zero then things must change. Natural England has to recognise that if it wants to fulfil its role then it must pay proper wages, reduce workloads, reduce pressure on staff and end the unacceptable pay inequality.”

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