ARC - Assessment & Recognition of Competence (for constables)
ARC stands for Assessment and Recognition of Competence and has been introduced by the Home Office and College of Policing for constables at pay point 4.
Access to pay point 4 for constables will now be determined on the basis of an assessment, rather than ‘automatic’ progression based on time served. The assessment will not be by written exam, but will be based largely on the officer’s Performance and Development Review (PDR). The Police Federation consistently argued against a written exam, as we believe that it is vital that the method of assessment is based on job requirements, and is as close to normal practice as possible. It should not introduce new methods of testing, and it must not take up a disproportionate amount of time for either the officer being assessed, or the sergeant assessing.
We believe that officers should be supported to develop the competencies required for the job, and that the public are given reassurance that this is the case. ARC assessments should go some way to proving that to the public.
Ongoing changes to police pay
The ARC initiative is one of the last changes carried over from the Winsor Review of Pay and Conditions (2011). Among nearly 200 recommendations, Winsor wanted a link between pay and performance.
While this marks almost the final chapter for the Winsor Review, it may well be only the start of significant transformation to the way that officers are able to reach higher pay.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing (CoP) are working on further change that they believe is necessary to achieve cultural shift in policing, and to bring the policing pay system more into line with that in education and in the National Health Service.
Across the public sector there is a move away from incremental pay progression.
What has the Federation done?
We are working for you during these changes, to ensure the best and fairest deal possible.
- We insisted that the standards are based on analysis of job requirements. They will not be sit down exams, but will be work-based assessments of tasks officers are already expected to do: fairer, more appropriate, and less resource intensive.
- The idea of a ‘forced distribution’ of scores has been removed, and instead the regime will be against set standards. This means no upper or lower limit on how many people can access the pay: it will be determined by objective criteria.
- There will be an assumption of competence, so that any officer whose force fails to do the PDR does not lose pay. Officers who fail the assessment should be able to retake it as soon as possible, and should a retake be delayed by the force, pay will be backdated. Only those on Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures (UPP) will be held back.
- We insisted on a robust pilot study, and that the assessments were subject to an Equality Impact Assessment. Numerous changes were made following this, including the decision not to progress the Advanced Assessment as soon as originally planned, until supervisors are suitably trained.
How will ARC work?
Details of how the assessment will work have been published by the Home Office. The CoP has also published Guidance on their website, which includes information about how to prepare for the assessment, and what the outcomes might be.
The CoP Guidance states that the ARC process “confirms that a constable is fully competent in their core role”. We have fought to ensure that this is about checking that officers have the competence expected and needed at this stage of their career. It is not about setting the mark much higher than necessary for the job and there won’t be a quota of officers who attain a pass. This is not a performance-based system, with so called high performers getting more money. It is a competence based system, and any officer doing the job properly should progress up the scale.
What is the impact for officers?
We believe, based on the safeguards we fought for, that only a small proportion of officers will not attain pay point 4. We also believe that gathering the evidence you need for your assessment should be part of your existing day-to-day activity, and so the disruption to getting on with the job should be minimised.
What do I do if I think I am treated unfairly?
We have stressed throughout that it is essential that supervisors are trained properly in this process, as the consequences for officers are significant. This perspective was reinforced by the findings of the pilot study, with supervisors also stating that they wanted to be trained.
Your force should therefore train sergeants who will be assessing constables in the correct process. Each force must also have an appeals process. It is likely that if you challenge the assessment outcome, then your force will use a second suitably qualified assessor to ensure that national standards have been complied with. A formal appeal is possible. If you have concerns about your assessment, contact your local Federation representative as soon as you can.
What else is the Federation doing?
We will monitor at a national level the numbers of officers attaining pay point 4. We will continue to work to ensure that this is done fairly and in accordance with the agreements we have previously reached with the NPCC and the CoP.
Where can I find more information?
Visit the CoP website or speak to your local Federation’s lead on professional development. Find out how to contact your Federation branch.