UK judges feel undervalued and underpaid

The proportion of judges who would leave the bench if it were viable has almost doubled in two years

UK judges feel undervalued and underpaid

While virtually all judges in the UK feel that they provide an important service to society, a significant number of them feel undervalued by the government and the media.

According to the latest UK Judicial Attitude Survey, judges feel most valued by their colleagues (84%), court staff (77%), the legal profession (62%), and parties in cases before them (62%). However, while almost half of judges feel valued by the public (43%), very few feel valued by the UK Government (2%) or the media (3%).

Most judges, however, feel a personal attachment to being a member of the judiciary (90%), little changed from 2014 levels. Virtually all judges (99%) said they were committed to doing their job as well as they possibly can.

This is despite many judges feeling they are underpaid. Most judges (78%) say they have had a loss of net earnings in the last two years, while a majority (62%) also say the change of pensions has personally affected them. Meanwhile, a majority (74%) also feel that their pay and pension entitlement combined does not adequately reflect the work they have done and will do before retirement.

This has negatively affected morale, with 63% of judges saying judiciary salary is affecting their morale and 82% saying that the salary issue is affecting the morale of judges they work with. Sixty-six percent said changes in pensions affected their own morale, and 88% said pension changes affected the morale of judges they work with.

According to the survey, judges are evenly divided on whether they would leave the bench if that were a viable option. However, the proportion of judges who said they would if it were viable almost doubled, from 23% in 2014 to 42% in 2016.

The survey also found that a majority (76%) feel their working conditions have deteriorated since 2014. Nonetheless, more judges feel deterioration in working conditions was worse from 2009 to 2014.

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