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University of Suffolk

Website: University of Suffolk (

No of Staff: 628 in academic year 2022/23 (according to HESA)

Their Challenge:

The University of Suffolk needed to implement changes to position themselves as an Employer of Choice. Their annual staff survey had shown that pay and benefits were a significant factor in how staff felt about working for the university.

They concluded that they needed to review their pay structure, especially the bottom points on the scale, which were being eroded due to the National Living Wage. The university also had to ensure that the number of scale points per grade were consistent.

Finally, the university wanted to investigate what other benefits could be introduced to reward their staff besides pay.


The Solution:

Understanding complex pay structures is one of ECC’s strengths. An ECC Consultant worked closely with the university to conduct a comprehensive review of the University of Suffolk’s pay structure. Using HERA (Higher Education Role Analysis), a full assessment of role scoring was undertaken, and the pay structure was reviewed.

HERA provides a robust method of comparing and contrasting roles, ensuring compliance with the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the 2010 Equality Act. It helps organisations avoid potential bias in the design and sizing of roles inherent in some other schemes, as it doesn’t make assumptions about levels of responsibility and accountability.

Our sector-leading schemes HERA (Higher Education Role Analysis) and FEDRA (Further Education Role Analysis) have helped analyse more than 150,000 roles in 150 organisations, determining pay and grading structures for more than half a million people. They were developed especially for the higher and further education sectors and unlike other job evaluation schemes were designed ‘by the sector for the sector’.

The assessment of role scoring at the university indicated that all grades, with the exception of the lowest two, were sufficiently defined and justifiable. The new banding alignment application resulted in pay bands being more consistent with EHRC good practice, and the lowest two grades were combined into one new pay band. The changes made to the banding alignment also resulted in an increase in headroom across many bands, with a significant increase in headroom for those previously on the lowest grade. The realignment of new bands overlaid to the national pay framework addressed anomalies and resulted in more consistent sizing of bands.


The Result:

Using the ECC’s consultants’ skills and knowledge, alongside ECC’s Role Analysis tools, the university was able to resolve challenges with pay and benefits and position itself as an Employer of Choice.

This was an ambitious and far-reaching project with real evidence of positive impact.  Staff recognised that the 'Rewarding Suffolk' project pro-actively responded to employee voices from their previous staff survey but had also gone above and beyond expectations.

The success of the project resulted in the university winning the ECC 2023 Project of the Year Award.

The University took every opportunity to tie in non-monetary benefits in the review and implementation, making an early commitment to finding the greatest benefit to the most staff and potential staff. 

The new pay structure was fully implemented on 1 August 2023, seeing around 35% (227 staff) benefit positively. The changes were favourably received by the University’s recognised Trade Unions and staff (many of whom chose to comment positively about the work in free text comments in the most recent staff survey).

The work was communicated to staff as part of a wider ‘reward and benefit’ review which saw the launch of an electric vehicle lease scheme, discretionary ‘Birthday Leave’, enhancement to some of our core benefits, EAP service and a number of employer discounts, plus a number of cost-of-living measures including free staff parking from November to August 2023. Other ongoing reward mechanisms such as the annual Staff Awards event, held as a celebratory afternoon and evening at the end of Graduation week, continued to great staff acclaim.

The outcome of the project supported changes to future proof their pay structure to accommodate predicted future NLW increases whilst at the same time retaining appropriate differentials between pay points and bandings.  The challenge which arose from overlapping bands has been removed and the salary potential and capabilities of Suffolk staff have been increased.

“The knowledge and expertise of ECC really gave us confidence in the options available and supported us in reaching a decision to effect changes which brought the greatest benefit to the greatest number of our staff.”


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