Sector focus: Secretarial Part 2

Secretarial sector focus

Every month we’ll be taking an in-depth look at a particular sector and letting you know how it’s doing. From employment figures and salaries to the latest trends and stories that rocked that industry. This month we’re focusing on the secretarial industry.

In part 1 we analysed how the secretarial industry was doing in the jobs market. In this second part we discuss the big stories that affected the sector.

The bad news

Because the amount of vacancies available for secretaries often depends on how well relevant sectors are doing, when certain sectors make cutbacks secretaries can often find themselves in the firing line too.

The NHS cuts in particular have hit secretaries hard, with thousands of Band 4 medical secretaries being made redundant, particularly in Scotland where the ratio of secretaries was recently halved.

Medical secretary redundancies have caused concern amongst consultants, who believe that it’s starting to affect patient care. The lack of staff has led to backlogs and delays of letters which inform patients and their GP of follow-up appointments and their general progress.

Some consultants have also complained that the quality and accuracy of the letters has deteriorated as a result of the cuts. According to the consultants’ analysis, 40% of clinical letters were taking over a week to type up during the 2012 pilot period compared to 13% during the same 13-week period in 2011. By January of 2013 it got worse, with 81% taking more than seven days to turn around and 24% of these taking more than two weeks.

And it could get worse, as recent proposals have suggested that each secretary should work for two consultants, instead of the one-to-one system which is currently in place, which could put a lot of strain on the industry.

And it wasn’t just large industries like the NHS making secretarial cuts, some individual companies were forced to let some staff go too. In particular, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) recently cut 102 of their legal and secretarial staff. Taylor Wessing had to revaluate how many of their 96 secretaries they could keep on, while Slaughter and Maycut cut 32 full-time secretarial jobs following a redundancy consultation.

The good news

A PA’s role is gradually starting to grow, which is mainly due to middle management roles being made redundant, and so PAs are now taking on their responsibilities. This means a PA’s job specification is growing, which could lead to higher salaries as a result.

It’s no surprise then that the industry has recently seen an increase in the number of people wanting to have a secretarial career, with the number of people in secretarial roles rising by 8%. This is partly due to an increase in the number of PA, executive assistant and office manager jobs.

And morale is certainly high in the secretarial industry too, as according to figures from the Association of Personal Assistants (APA), over 60% of PAs believe their role has become more important over the last 5 years.

In fact more and more people in admin roles are seeing themselves as secretaries, and according to a recent survey by the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the number of administrative staff that consider themselves to be secretaries has nearly doubled over the past two years.

As we’ve seen from the NHS cuts, when certain sectors are doing badly it has a knock-on effect for secretaries. But in contrast to this, if industries are doing well the sectorial sector will thrive as a result. So with the legal industry booming at the moment, legal secretaries and PAs are in demand there. In fact according to lobby group TheCityUK, during 2012 the number of legal services employees rose dramatically to over 118,000 people (a huge improvement on the 95,000 figure from 2010).

 

Next month: On next month’s sector focus, we discuss the latest goings on in the customer service industry.

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