Service pay explained: the X-Factor
The X-Factor is a pensionable addition to pay that recognises the special conditions of service experienced by members of the Armed Forces compared with their civilian peers. It accounts for a range of potential advantages and disadvantages which cannot be fully evaluated when assessing pay comparability with the civilian workforce, and is expressed as a percentage of base pay. The current rate of X-Factor for Regular and Full-Time Reserve Service (FTRS) (Full Commitment) personnel is 14.5%; 5% for Part-Time Volunteer Reserves, Additional Duties Commitment, Military Provost Guard Service and FTRS (Local Commitment) personnel; and 0% for FTRS (Home Commitment) and University and Medical Ofﬁcer Cadets. In order to help personnel understand what element of their pay is made up of X-Factor, monthly payslips now show the value of X-Factor as a proportion of total pay.
X-Factor is assessed against 13 components and changes affecting each component are reviewed every ﬁve years. No single component has a greater weighting than another, and all components reﬂect a through career impact, both positive and negative. Not all personnel will be affected by all components all of the time, but the majority will be affected by all components at some point during their careers.
Broadly speaking the 13 X-Factor components can be broken down into three positive ones and 10 negative. The term ‘broadly speaking’ is used as not everyone will view the different components in the same way. For example, some personnel and their families might view moving around constantly as exciting and one of the attractions of Service life, when others do not, or some might view it as more of a positive in the early stages of a career and less so later on.
The positive components are considered to be:
- Job Security – In an uncertain and volatile workplace, Service personnel beneﬁt from being able to work within the same organisation, albeit within different divisions or units, for a signiﬁcant number of years depending on the length of their engagement.
- Training, adventure training and personal development – Facilitates career progression, enhanced skills and increased responsibility, where appropriate.
- Promotion and Early responsibility – Service careers provide earlier opportunities for holding positions of responsibility, than are typically experienced by those of similar ages or career stages than in civilian occupations.
The negative components concern:
- Turbulence – Closely linked to spousal/partner employment as well, changing jobs both in terms of type of job and the geographical location of the work as well as having to move home, is hugely unsettling. Whilst civilians also change jobs, they tend to do so less frequently than Service personnel and with greater choice of when and where.
- Spousal/partner employment – Finding and maintaining a career is disproportionately difﬁcult for the spouse/partner of a Service person due to the turbulence of frequently changing jobs and location and the impact of deployments. This affects not only spousal/partner career progression but also longer-term earnings and pension beneﬁts.
- Danger – Service personnel have a greater chance of being exposed to the threat of real or perceived violence, in a physically unsafe or uncomfortable environment and where the danger of death or injury in the course of their duties is greater than that which most civilians are exposed to.
- Separation – Separation does not just mean when Service personnel are deployed on operations away from their families. Separation refers to the cumulative impact of time away from home on duty taskings, wherever that may be and for whatever purpose.
- Hours of Work – Armed Forces personnel have a requirement underpinned by Service law to be available for duty 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, without the payment of overtime.
- Stress, personal relationships and impact of the job – Depending on the level of deployment and nature of their tasks, Armed Forces personnel may experience signiﬁcantly greater levels of stress than would normally be seen in civilian occupations. The Armed Forces may also experience additional stress because of overstretch owing to operational reasons.
- Leave – Leave can be lost for service reasons. Furthermore, it may be difﬁcult for Service personnel to take leave when they wish, or plan ahead as a result of the unpredictability of Service commitments.
- Autonomy, management control and ﬂexibility – Due to the unique nature of their work, Armed Forces personnel operate within a tightly controlled, disciplined structure. In general, civilians have signiﬁcantly more freedom and ﬂexibility in making decisions which impact upon their immediate working environment and how they go about completing tasks.
- Individual and collective rights – Individual legal rights are enjoyed by UK citizens and by those with a right to remain and work in the UK, for example, Working Time legislation and Trade Union membership. Not all of these pieces of legislation are applicable to members of the Armed Forces who are also subject to the additional restrictions of Service law.
- Travel to work – Includes time, method and cost. This varies for the Armed Forces depending upon the nature of their current job and deployment, if any. Again, this mitigates the lack of choice that many Service personnel have in terms of location.
The positives and negatives are considered on balance by the AFPRB, and a recommendation made as to what the percentage of X-Factor should be mindful of changes to both service and civilian life since the previous review. It is important to remember that X-Factor represents the special conditions of Service, both positive and negative, and should not be viewed as compensation for the negative aspects alone.
Do look out for the 2018 AFPRB Report on the Government’s website, which will explain the evidence they considered in their latest review of X-Factor and the recommended rate of X-Factor for Armed Forces personnel.
Image: The cockpit of a Royal Air Force A400M Atlas from 70 Sqn based at RAF Brize Norton taking part in a Flypast over Brussels, Belgium, to mark the NATO summit on the 25th May 2017.