Derbyshire Police Federation

Leavers’ Survey reveals toll policing takes on officers

2 December 2021

The severe impact of poor morale, low pay, overwork and lack of resources on the wellbeing of officers has been laid bare by officers who have chosen to leave the service.

The Leavers’ Survey, compiled by the organisation’s research department, polled 2,326 members between October 2017 and July 2021.

Of those who resigned, 59 per cent said the impact of the job on their psychological health had a major effect on their decision while a quarter of all respondents said workload was a factor.

Roughly a fifth of respondents said pension changes were a big factor in their decision to leave, while 19 per cent said the way pension changes had been implemented had a major effect on their decision to leave– especially amongst mid-career respondents.

The erosion of basic pay in recent years was also another contributing factor for many leaving early, with 30 per cent of those who resigned saying this was a major reason.

However, 28 per cent also said a better work-life balance would have made them reconsider their decision to leave, while improvements to welfare and work-life balance could have made approximately 40 per cent of respondents who resigned reconsider their decision.

Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton said the report came as no surprise.

He explained: “As a Police Federation we have been warning about low morale for several years. There is a direct link between officer morale and pay, conditions and workload and it will always be an issue until these factors are addressed.

“The Government has to start taking these concerns seriously or more and more good, experienced police officers are going to decide enough is enough and leave the service.

“That is a tragedy for forces and for the communities they serve and protect.  It is in everyone’s interest to make sure policing can retain its best people.”

Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) chair John Apter said the findings tallied with what he was being told by members.

He warned the issue of morale was having a massively detrimental impact on colleagues and called on the Government to take urgent action to address this.

John said: “It’s also about colleagues feeling valued – not just within the job by those who supervise, but also by the public, media and Government. The recent pay freeze was detrimental to policing, as was the lack of vaccine prioritisation. That has made people feel they are not valued, despite what was being expected of them throughout the pandemic.

“Colleagues are telling me that despite nice words from the Government, the Prime Minister and others, these mean absolutely nothing. Morale has been dented and with the uncertainty over the future of pensions, we feel that anger through PFEW’s local branches.

“One quick fix would involve a pay award, but I asked the Government to do an urgent review of its pay freeze decision, and it has not even bothered to respond. That shows just how little this Government thinks about policing, it’s contemplable. To ensure officers can pay their bills and are rewarded properly, they should be given this now.

“It simply does not wash any more for the Government to say how much it values police officers, but then not back it up with anything. This is seen as what it is by colleagues, a betrayal of trust.”

The survey, a rolling survey which has no designated closing date, is open to any officer who is leaving the police service, including those who are retiring, resigning or required to leave their force. 

It was launched to gain an insight into officers’ reasons for leaving and to identify whether officers were gaining what they wanted from a career with the service.

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