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Pay on display

01 November, 2010
EKW's PAYEPeople report has some real suprises this year - not least of all with the Midlands becoming the top-paying region for the first time in the history of the survey. Read on to find out what the going rate is in your area
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The EKW PAYEPeople Annual Forecourt Wages Report 2010

It's a month later than usual, but we have crunched the pay numbers from September to see what forecourts were paying their hourly-paid staff. This is the 13th year that we've done it, but for any readers not yet familiar with this report here's a quick reminder of how we do it and why it's unique.

We process the weekly and monthly pay slips of several thousands of staff on behalf of hundreds of forecourt operators across the British Isles. At a similar point each September, we capture a 'freeze-frame' of what each hourly-paid employee received as his or her hourly rate during that month.

The data is then split by geographic region and we work out the national and regional average pay rates. Simple really. As we repeat each year, these are actual pay rates that have been processed on behalf of employers. As far as we're aware every other 'pay survey' is the result of employers or employees being asked how much they pay or receive questions that can result in dubious answers.

So on with the figures. Twelve months ago, with the then national average at £5.90/hour, our historic data trend analysis predicted a national rate for this year of £6.13 per hour. Well, we weren't far off; the actual figure for September 2010 was:

l UK national average rate September 2010 = £6.04 per hour.

l Increase on 2009 = 2.4%

While that national average across the UK didn't really come as a big surprise, there was a lot of movement between different regions of the country and some of that movement was quite unpredictable.

l In the Midlands it was £6.31 an hour up from £5.90 last year, with an extremely surprising increase of 6.9% which meant it became the top-paying region for the first time since we started compiling these reports. The one constant with last year's result in this region was that it again had the highest individual site rate in the country at £7.74 per hour.

l North of England (for technical reasons we have had to merge the former North and North East into one region) £6.11 per hour. This is a region that saw another above-average increase of pay (up 3% from £5.93) to move up to second place in the pay league this year.

l South West £6.08 per hour this had been the top-paying region for the past couple of years, although it only recorded a tiny increase of 0.8% this year and has now been overtaken in the league.

l South East £6.05 per hour. Historically a region that has featured in the top three more often than not over the years, but fell to sixth place last year. Our recorded wage rate here went up by 2.4% from £5.91 per hour last year.

l Greater London £6.04 per hour. Over the past 13 years this region had rarely been out of the top three until the shock result in 2009. A fall of 1.5% that year put it close to the bottom of the league. Since then we've seen a 3.2% increase to bring it back to mid-table, and pay rates here are now in line with the national average.

l North West £6.01 per hour. A 2.9% increase on last year sees this region climb into mid-table.

l Scotland £5.97 per hour. It had been bottom of the league but a 2.6% increase has pushed it higher this year.

l Eastern England £5.94 per hour. Once a regular among the top three paying areas, this region has now slipped into the bottom three.

l Wales £5.87 per hour. One of two regions this year to record an actual fall in rates. The 1.3% fall has put pay here back to near the bottom of the league, which is in line with our historic results. Last year's joint second finish now looks like it was a bit of a fluke result!

l Northern Ireland £5.84/hr. As with Wales, here we saw a fall (1.8%) which again makes last-year's joint second place seem like a one-off.

These detailed results were indeed less expected than the national headline figures. What we seem to be seeing is an overall flattening out of pay rates. The gap between top and bottom regions is less than 50p per hour, which is again among the narrowest ranges we've recorded. Even the spread between the highest- and lowest-paying individual sites within each region is now much tighter than before.

It's tempting to speculate as to why this may be happening, but one possible factor is that multi-site operators now run so many forecourts. Most such operators will tend to set a standard pay rate across all of their sites rather than have different pay rates in each location especially important when they wish to move staff between sites to cover for holidays and sickness absence. Also, in a market with relatively few individual operators, many of them working within oil company owned networks, there is a tendency to see the competition for staff coming, not from the next similar forecourt a mile or two away, but from the nearest hypermarket maybe four or five miles away.

National Minimum Wage Rate from October 1, 2010

Just a reminder that the National Minimum Wage increased slightly on October 1 (just a few weeks after these figures were compiled) to: £5.93 per hour for employees 21 years of age and over (up from £5.80); £4.92 per hour for employees aged between 18 and 21 (up from £4.83); and £3.64 per hour for employees aged 16 and 17 (up from £3.57).

Here's our one annual attempt at predicting the future. The mathematical trend from our last 13 years' published data suggests a rate of £6.30 per hour by this time next year although since the 'trend' is rather weighted by the higher increases recorded during the earlier years of the series, the prediction already looks to be too high for the current economic climate! Last but not least, special thanks to Allan Pearson and Craig Anderson at PAYEPeople for extracting the data so we can bring you this exclusive report in Forecourt Trader each year.