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Starting salary negotiation advice in public sector

  • 23-02-2022 2:03pm
    Registered Users Posts: 84 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R

    Hi folks,

    Hoping you guys can help give me some clarity in my decision-making process and advice on negotiation.

    I am currently working in an IT department the public sector for a local authority since 2021, earning €44,574 gross annual salary.

    My salary is due to increase to €45,975 in June, with a further 1% increase due in October for all staff.

    The rest of the salary scale is as follows:

    [€44,574][€45,975][€47,378][€48,781][€50,182][€51,815 - LSI 1][€53,454 - LSI 2]

    * LSI 1 after 3 years satisfactory service at the maximum.

    * LSI 2 after 6 years satisfactory service at the maximum.

    So it would take me roughly another 12 years to reach the top of the scale in my current role. What I have noticed so far as that there also doesn't look to be that much room for potential promotion prospects in IT Departments within county councils, given that some people are of the opinion that it is a bit of a dead-end environment.

    I have been offered a similar role with a University, which I am considering because I think there might be more scope for future promotion within the higher education sector.

    But there are a few potential stumbling blocks that I'm trying to weigh up. 

    Firstly the salary is €38,103 - €64,582 in the following 15-point scale:

    [€38,103][€39,165][€40,172][€42,563][€45,099][€46,943][€48,862][€50,767][€52,686][€55,106][€57,034][€59,125][€61,212][€63,253][€64,582 - LSI]

    * LSI payable after 3 years service on the maximum of the scale.

    So before I potentially accept this job offer, I will need to negotiate with the HR department at the University to agree which point on the salary scale that I would be starting on. At a bare minimum they would need to match my existing salary (€44,574) but there are additional factors that I think need to be taken into consideration.

    Firstly, although I am currently on €44,574 I am only a few months away from an incremental increase to €45,975 plus a further 1% increase in October which I believe will be applied across the board to all staff, but I'm not sure if this 1% increase will apply to public sector staff working in higher education.

    Secondly, my current role is a 37-hour work week (net) which is due to decrease to a 35-hour work week in July due to the end of the 2013 Haddington Road Agreement. So by July I will be earning €45,975 for a 35-hour week with a 1% increase in October. The job at the University was advertised as a 39-hour work week (net) before Christmas and I'm not sure if the University hours are going to be reduced or not as part of the ending of these austerity measures. At the moment it would be at least an extra two hours per week that I would have to work, potentially increasing to an extra 4 hours per week after July.

    Thirdly, my current role is only a 30-minute commute (15mins each way) costing roughly €782 per year on car fuel. The role with the university would be a 60-minute commute (30mins each way) costing roughly €2,273 per year on car fuel. So if I need to factor in that changing jobs will cost be an extra €1,491 per year on car fuel expenses. 

    With all of these factors coming into consideration, I am trying to determine what would be a reasonable fair starting point on the salary with the University? I don't want to ask HR for too big of a starting point where they would totally discard me and revoke the job offer. But at the same time I think the starting salary needs to reflect the potential longer hours and longer commute. Plus I think there is also a sense that it is logical to want an actual pay-rise as opposed to matching pay when moving from one job to another. It would be great to hear some of your opinions as to which starting point on the salary scale you feel that I should try to obtain. It would be particularly interesting to know if anyone has found themselves in a similar position, moving from one public sector job to another and having to argue a fair starting salary point.


  • Registered Users Posts: 12,583 ✭✭✭✭ Interested Observer

    I don't have experience with public sector but personally I prefer to let the employer make an offer and see what they say. If you feel they are low-balling you then you can outline the factors above to say why you feel it's too low. And tbh I'd be surprised if any employer really factored in the extra commute time, I would say they will see it as not their problem.

  • Registered Users Posts: 285 ✭✭ MrsBean

    Open to correction here but if both Local Authority and Education sector are considered public service, I think the below circular might apply? Don't think there's ever much room for negotiating your salary in the public sector - it is usually decided based on pre-existing guidelines and procedures. I think you will start at the nearest point to your current point +1 increment.

    Would it be worth asking the new HR to clarify what your starting point will be given that you are a already a public servant? That way you're not coming in demanding a specific rate of pay, but are asking a reasonable question as to what your remuneration will be should you accept the job.

  • Registered Users Posts: 971 ✭✭✭ PGE1970

    You may persuade them that your service in the local authority should count when deciding what point of the scale that you should start a new job in. But only if services between those state/semi-state bodies are recognised. 25 years ago, i went from a semi-state body to a local authority and it was considered and I started way up the scale. But that's a very long time ago.

    Your last para re travel/hours etc are relevant to you but irrelevant to the future employer. You either take those terms & conditions or you don't. It's your choice.

  • Registered Users Posts: 293 ✭✭ flended12

    Theres no negotiation regards salary, hence the reason they are advertised and ratified by unions etc. There maybe wiggle room regards blended working, time in lieu, if your lucky overtime, mileage (thats even set in stone).

    Theres also very little "we need this person" attitutde like the private sector, HR in public service have no time or appetite for negotiation because there is none, if you say no, they say "next!".

    From my experience in Public Life, it weighs very much in the favour of the employee and as such negotiations are already applied on your behalf once in the role(s).

    If you can get yourself a better deal than advertised, please do let us know!

  • Registered Users Posts: 724 ✭✭✭ doc22

    That circular only relates to the civil service not across the public service

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  • Registered Users Posts: 285 ✭✭ MrsBean

    Fair enough! It does say public service in its Purpose on pg1 which is why I wasn't sure.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,514 ✭✭✭ griffin100

    I’ve posted this elsewhere here but I work in a university and have taken on staff well above entry level at a negotiated point on the scale quite a few times. In my organisation you have to justify the salary you want to offer a candidate and get it approved but that’s usually a formality. It’s hard to get good technical people so you may have some bargaining power. That said I’m not sure which a university has offered you a role - given the use of LSI’s which are not used by my university or any of the ones I’ve sat on interview boards for I’d say it’s a TU (TUD?). Different universitys may have different approaches to starting salaries but you’ve nothing to loose by asking for more. I’d also add that universities are in the main nice places to work with a variety of work and usually a good bunch of colleagues.

  • Registered Users Posts: 84 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R

    Thanks for the responses folks, I will let you know how it works out. There is of course a chance that the University (it's a TU by the way) might also get the 1% pay increase in October and might also reduce their 39-hour working week in July as part of the winding down of the Haddington Road Agreement. I'm just not sure if University employees are included in the same boat along with other public sector services like Civil Service and Local Authorities.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,514 ✭✭✭ griffin100

    TU's do differ from the older University's as they are coming from a different place having been IT's until recently. IME a lot of their systems and policies would be more aligned with Dept. Education / ETB type models.

  • Registered Users Posts: 724 ✭✭✭ doc22

    Universities seem to give credit for existing service at the same grade and it's only internally promoted staff would have existing pay taken into account. Negotiation wise no HR admin staff is going to change existing policy(whatever that may be)

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  • Registered Users Posts: 84 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R

    I have just been informed that the job offer with the University would be a "specific purpose contract" so I am guessing this means it is only a temporary short-term contract. Therefore I am probably going to have to reject the offer as I don't think it would be wise to leave a job with a permanent contract for one with a "specific purpose contract" as is being offered. 

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,598 ✭✭✭ Saint_Mel

    Was in similar situation ... relatively new to PS and had to go in on the bottom step of the ladder and a significant pay cut from previous private sector role.

    Had previous experience of trying to negotiate my starting point on the scale for a different role (and body). Found this all quite bizarre as I had been offered the job (IT role) based on having 20+ years experience, but then was told as it was all in private sector, I'd be starting on point 1 which was pretty much graduate salary. No negotiations and very short, take it or leave it type of curt replies from HR.

    Was also offered a role in a TU around the same time. Similar pay scale but they recognised my private sector experience and would start me at the top of the pay scale as it matched my current salary at the time. Only downside was it was a 1 year pro-rata which meant no job security.

  • Registered Users Posts: 908 ✭✭✭ gauchesnell

    specific purpose contract does not mean short term necessarily. Hopefully you got more information. I work in a university and people can be on specific purpose contracts for a couple of years - but it is dependent on what the purpose is.

    We are public servants (I am) and can confirm they are nice places to work aswell. Incremental credit would probably apply in your case but as others have pointed out there isnt negotiation as such like the private sector.

    Anyway hope you got sorted.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,799 ✭✭✭ Diceicle

    Specified Purpose Contracts - I tend to think of those as project-based contracts where you're brought in to perform a specific piece of work. That doesn't necessarily mean short-term but it usually does have an end-date - could be years away.

    Those contracts have also been used as vehicles to get people into the service - then a few years down the line your contract is 'regularized' to a 'contract of indefinte duration'.

    Ask the recruiter about the specific piece of work - it might give an indication if its for a project or a vehicle to get bums on seats

  • Registered Users Posts: 84 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R

    After a number of weeks, I have finally received the contract in the post today. Again it is classed as a "Specific Purpose" contract with an "Expected duration" of 2.5 years commencing in May 2022. It states that the salary will be paid at the first point of the scale, but states that I "may be eligible for incremental credit" upon completion of an Incremental Credit Application with supporting written confirmation. It states the following:

    "This is a whole time, specified purpose and pensionable appointment to provide support to the TU's Systems Integration Project. The date of commencement of employment is May 2022 and the employment will terminate when the specified purpose ceases. In accordance with Section 8 of the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003, this contract is being offered on a specified purpose basis rather than as a contract of indefinite duration because the termination of this contract will occur upon completion of the work in which you are engaged in. The Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 to 2001 will not apply to a dismissal consisting of the expiry on this contract only of the completion of the specified purpose of this contract."

    Although admittedly 2.5 years is more secure than the 1 year contract I was expecting when I heard it would be a specific purpose contract, I am still not sure if this is worth leaving a permanent public sector job with a local authority. I am currently earning €44,574 for a 37hr week (approx. €23.09 per hour) and from July 1st I would be earning €45,975 for a 35hr week (approx. €25.17 per hour) so for a 39hr week at a TU I think I fair starting salary would be in the €46,988.61 - €51,221.45 range. I suppose I will have to check with the HR department to see if the TU has any plans on reducing their 39hr week in July as part of the ending of the 2013 Haddington Road Agreement.

    The whole thing is very bizarre, the TU advertised these roles in January and conducted the interviews in late February. Yet despite already having done this recent recruitment process, I have noticed that in late March they again are advertising the same role that I am being offered so I am wondering if it is worth applying again to see if I'd place 1st on the panel this time and maybe get offered a permanent contract instead of a specified purpose contract.

  • Registered Users Posts: 43 dat6

    First you should talk to the hiring manager in the TU, ask them informally what their plans are. There is nothing stopping you from applying for the latest post. Their internal processes would require advertising of each specific post, unless they had allowed a panel with permanent posts. It is possible someone has been promoted / retired internally and a FTE came up which they are filling. If they had a panel, it’s possible the panel was very short (especially in IT) so they were forced to advertise again. Note, in many Universities/ITs they usually advertise all posts religiously internally before going external.

    Finally, since you are permanent in your current role, why not apply for a career break? At least you would have a fall back. You would not have an automatic entitlement to your original post but you would keep your permanent grade.

  • Registered Users Posts: 84 ✭✭ KJK1LL3R

    So the TU have offered me a starting salary of €47,412 for a 39-hour working week on a 2.5yr specified purpose contract.

    I am currently on €45,975 for a 35-hour working week with a Local Authority (County Council) so the role with the TU would actually be a pay cut in terms of hourly wages from €25.17 net per hour to €23.30 net per hour.

    It would take me 9 years to reach the top of the scale (€53,453) in my existing role, but if I took the job with the TU then I would be earning €53,213 after only 3 years. I am currently a grade 5 at the Local Authority and the role with the TU is a grade 6, but at the top of it's scale (€65,228) is actually the equivalent of a grade 7 role LSI1 at the Local Authority so the TU's clearly offer significantly better salaries than most of the other public sector employers. In my existing role my transport/commuting costs including fuel/wear&tear is around €107 per month, whilst at the TU this expense would increase significantly to around €312 per month so in reality it would be around 4 years before my actual take-home pay would be higher in the TU vs the Local Authority. A potential option could be to go down the taxsaver commuter public transport route at a cost of around €117 per month but I'm not sure if I fancy that having always commuted by car my entire career.

    HR at the TU have informed me of the following:

    "Someone on a specific purpose contract can’t be made permanent. For someone on a specific purpose contract, the contract can be extended, if the duration of the “specific purpose” is extended but it doesn’t change the nature of the contract. Another type of contract is a fixed term renewable contract, and such a contract can be renewed and can, under certain circumstances, lead to what is called a contract of indefinite duration. However permanent vacancies have to be advertised and filled by competition. The contract you have been offered is a specified purpose contract with an expected duration of 2.5 years. This contract will come to an end when the purpose ends and would never become a permanent contract. Should the position become available on a permanent basis then you would need to apply for it under those conditions."

    The TU seems like a better option in terms of future earnings and career prospects but my biggest concern is that I'm not sure it is wise to give up the security of a permanent job for a specified purpose contract so I'm leaning towards staying where I'm at and then try for the TU again in future if a permanent role comes up.

    I would be keen to hear some of your thoughts.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,699 ✭✭✭ HerrKuehn

    I think you place a disproportionate value on permanent employment. If it didn't work out at the end of the 2.5 years would you have other options available outside the PS? I have no idea what it is that the job entails since "IT" is such a wide field. If it was me I would look at getting the salary up and the TU seems like a better option for that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 724 ✭✭✭ doc22

    Did it take them two months after the initial contract to give you a potential salary?

    On what basis did the calculate salary? (ie in 2.5 years should you have a break return to public sector would you start at the bottom again)

  • Registered Users Posts: 43 dat6


    I would exclude the “permanent” element when making a decision. There are so many IT roles that won’t get filled for decades. After 2.5 years, you might decide to move organisation anyway.. you never know

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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,671 ✭✭✭ TaurenDruid

    Thirdly, my current role is only a 30-minute commute (15mins each way) costing roughly €782 per year on car fuel. The role with the university would be a 60-minute commute (30mins each way) costing roughly €2,273 per year on car fuel. So if I need to factor in that changing jobs will cost be an extra €1,491 per year on car fuel expenses. 

    On whether to take the job or not, that depends on whether you value job security over slightly higher pay. If pay is more important, why would you limit yourself to this TU, and not go for a job in the private sector? You can make far more there, especially if you're doing short term contracts.

    Off-topic, but if you've only a 30-minute commute (or even 60 minute), why aren't you cycling? It'll be quicker, you get exercise and you'll save €782 or €2273.98 per year - which would have cost you twice that to earn.

  • Registered Users Posts: 19,871 ✭✭✭✭ Rikand

    If he's in Dublin, cycling is a great option. If he's in the west.... not so much