Buckingham Palace gardener job ad: shocking pay

Palace gardensPA

A job tending the immense gardens at Buckingham Palace has been advertised on the Royal Household website. The demanding job starts at 7.30 am each morning, and pays an astonishingly low £14,950 a year - which works out at just under £300 a week.

So what do they need to do for the money, and can this pay be right?

The job

The description of the role makes it sound like a huge daily undertaking. You'll need to be qualified, work 40 hours a week plus seasonal overtime. You'll need to be proficient in 'good organic horticultural practices', as well as able to keep the lawns to 'the highest standards'.

You'll also be chief in charge of the compost heap - or as the job advert puts it - green waste recycling duties. And because the Royal Household likes to encourage the development of wildlife, you'll have to be an enthusiastic clearer of leaves without the help of machinery.

The gardens are an overwhelming task - stretching for 400 acres. Presumably you'll also have to be comfortable with putting all that work in and then watch it trashed whenever the Queen holds a concert or a garden party too.

Poor pay?

So can the pay be right for the job? It's not the first time that Buckingham Palace was criticised for paying gardeners poorly. At the end of last year, when it advertised a more senior role for £17,000, gardeners were up in arms.

As a general rule of thumb, gardeners can make anything from the minimum agricultural wage of £12,000 to £40,000. The National Trust, for example, pays an average of £18,000 a year to its gardeners. Just under £15,000 is very low for this kind of role.

Tim Johnson, a specialist gardener recruiter from English Country Gardens is shocked: "If they were looking for someone straight out of school, with no experience, I could understand, but when someone has a formal qualification and experience then £17,000 would be rock bottom for the industry."

He says that doubtless the Royal Household would look good on a CV, which is no-doubt why it feels it can offer this level of pay. However: "Just because of who the employer is should not mean they are able to decrease the salary. People still have to be able to afford to live."

He adds: "When the Royal Household advertises jobs for this sort of pay it can have a detrimental effect across the industry. When the senior job was advertised last year for £17,000 we had all sorts of people contacting us and asking why they should pay any more than that. It had a detrimental effect."

Is it fair?

But on the flip side, the money is paid by us. The Royal Household receives annual funding for the Queen through the Sovereign Grant - which comes directly from taxpayers. Gardeners for Buckingham Palace are paid out of this grant. The Comptroller and Auditor General have the power to carry out value for money examinations of Royal Household expenditure. So to a certain extent, they cannot pay generously.

But what do you think, is this job an opportunity or an outrage? Let us know in the comments.

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