Each September since 1998, PAYEpeople (part of the EKW Group) has undertaken a major exercise to monitor and report the real level of wages paid on petrol retail sites across the UK.

To do this we examine every hourly wage transaction processed from petrol retailers using the PAYEpeople service. This year that meant looking at 6,115 hourly-paid employees at 748 retail forecourts from one end of the country to the other. From this mass of data we isolate particular figures: the number of hourly-paid staff, how many hours they worked and how much they were paid. Having used those to calculate the ‘national’ figures, we then allocate the sites into the same 11 regions as in previous reports, and calculate the regional range of pay rates in use.

As in previous years, we’re not attempting to analyse ‘average pay’ into different shifts, so, for example, night shift pay rates from 24-hour sites will simply be contained within the ‘average’. Nor are we attempting to analyse pay against different job descriptions. We’re looking at all hourly-paid employees, whether they’re paid as cashiers, bookkeepers, assistant managers or shelf-stackers. All the figures are ‘averages’ – at any site there will almost certainly be employees earning above and below the ‘site’ figures we’re reporting.

The results – briefly:

The current national average rate is £5.14 per hour (£4.95 in September 2004). National average pay increased by approximately 3.8% in the 12 months between September 2004 and September 2005.

The joint highest-paying regions this year were the South West and the South East of England (the latter excluding Greater London), both at £5.30/hr. The South West shows a slightly wider range of values around this average. The next highest paying region this year is Eastern England, at £5.21/hr. The Greater London region itself has slipped down to fourth place at £5.19/hr. The lowest-paying region was Northern Ireland, at £4.81/hr – which is actually a decrease on last year’s £4.95. The significance of this shouldn’t be overstated, however, since the sample of sites there is statistically small and has changed since last year.

The smallest ‘regular’ increases on last year were in the South East (+1.4%) and Greater London (+1.9%). The largest percentage increase this year was in Wales, at 6.5%. The greatest range of hourly pay was found in the South West and Eastern England, both showing a spread of £2.40/hr between their lowest- and highest-paying sites. The tightest range was recorded in the North East, as last year, where all sites fell into a narrow band between £4.85 and £5.13 per hour.

The ‘peak’ site-average rate of £7.06/hr was recorded in Eastern England. Lowest-paying individual site-averages were in Northern Ireland (£4.37) and the North West of England (£4.45). While these figures (and indeed similar ones from many other regions) appear at first glance to be below the National Minimum Wage rate (£4.85) for 2004/5, bear in mind that the NMW rate for 18-21 year-olds was only £4.10/hr; the implication being that many sites in these regions were employing a significant number of young people.

Average numbers of hourly-paid staff rose slightly to 8.2 (from 8.1) people per site.

In summary

This year’s overall wage rise is slightly less dramatic than the 5.3% increase recorded between 2004 and 2003. Perhaps the most noticeable trend evident from the full figures is the ‘flattening-out’ of some regional differentials. While the ‘south’ is still paying more than the rest of the UK, it has shown some of the smallest increases this year, while traditionally lower-paying regions have shown relatively large jumps in pay rates. Our prediction for next year is for another relatively low national increase to around £5.32/hr – although factors such as the current high oil price could feed through into much higher ‘inflationary’ wage pressures next year, throwing the prediction askew!

Finally... The National Minimum Wage

From October 1, 2005 the ‘adult’ National Minimum Wage rate will be £5.05 per hour, with a ‘development rate’ (for 18-21 year olds) of £4.25 per hour. (For further advice contact Andy McNicholas at PAYEpeople.)