Police Federation

Inspecting ranks (Part-3): Managing your hours and flexibility

10 May 2023


The third blog in the series brings into focus finer aspects of Inspectors' working such as how many hours they need to work in a year, what are Working Time Directive Hours and concerns raised by PFEW Wellbeing and H&S leads. 

The first two blogs have been well-received by many of you. They have also highlighted several questions which I will try to cover in the next couple of blog articles. Hopefully, by the end of the series, there will be a much better understanding of how all the pieces fit together. 

How many hours do I need to work each year?

This was not a direct question but an understanding of this covers several of the questions that I have responded to. In an ideal world, the working week for an Inspector would be Monday to Friday 8 hours per day. We all know that with operational demands this is simply not possible. The easiest way to look at what you need to work for your salary is as follows:

2,080 hours (52 weeks x 40 hours) minus bank holidays in that year and less your annual leave entitlement. The number that is left is what you must work on. 

So, for 2023, an Inspector with more than 20 years of service it will be as follows:

2,080 hours minus 72 hours for bank holidays (9 for 2023) minus 240 hours for annual leave (30 days) leaving 1,768 hours needing to be worked. Unless you carry over annual leave to the next year. Part-time officers will have their hours adjusted in line with their agreed hours of work.

I refer to these as your MINIMUM HOURS. 

There have been some questions about taking a rest day when perhaps one minute has been worked. Yes, this is correct, you can do it but your working hours across the year should reach your MINIMUM HOURS as above. I have been dealing with these matters for members for more than 15 years. Interestingly, in all this time, I have dealt with many who have been working too many additional hours but only one who was working too few hours. 

Hours worked on top of your MINIMUM HOURS are then those bought out in the 1994 PNB agreement, there will inevitably be times when you need to work additional hours. However, by managing your hours across the entire year you will hopefully be able to ensure that you are not working regular excessive hours. Using rest days in lieu and working shorter days, when possible, can help you do this. 

Here it is worth noting two things from the 1994 PNB Agreement. The PNB Agreement (circular 94/17) addresses the concerns of the Federation that their “members will not be regularly required to work excessive hours”. 

These points were later reiterated in the Home Office circular 21/97 within which it says: “The changes to conditions for the members of the ranks of Inspector and Chief Inspector introduced with effect from 1 September 1994 should not have altered, nor were they intended to alter, the average hours worked each week in posts filled by members of those ranks.”

Should my force duties system be recording my hours for me?

On this matter, I refer to Mark Andrews, a fellow National Board member, Inspector and PFEW lead for Health and Safety. 

“Some forces fail to record the hours' Inspectors and above work and instead rely on them to do so themselves, which in itself is against Working Times Regulations Act 1998. This states that employers must keep adequate records to show their employees don’t exceed 48 hours per week averaged over a reference period of 17 weeks. If any employee (which includes Inspectors and above) works beyond this they must agree to such an arrangement in writing by opting out of the (normal) clause. All ranks need proper rest if they are to operate at their best this means meaningful breaks outside and inside of work. Not doing this can lead to errors, risk-taking, ill health and a poor work-life balance.”

What about Working Time Directives (WTD)?

Unless you have opted out of working time directives, while our advice would be to carefully consider doing this, you will have some protection around the maximum number of hours worked. This is a maximum of 48 hours averaged out over normally a 17-week reference period. 

We know that many of you often work extra hours on a daily basis. Each one of you will need to decide your own ‘line in the sand’ around how many additional hours are reasonable. However, I would advise against being near the 48-hour mark. The reason being, if there was an urgent operational demand then you could well find yourself breaching the 48-hour upper limit unless the Chief Constable or Commissioner remove themselves from this entitlement under WTD Regulations due to urgent operational needs. There is also an obligation on you to take care of your health and safety ensuring that you can perform at your best by not being fatigued. 

To help us manage WTD, we use the term ‘balance your hours’. It is down to each of us to professionally look at our work demands over the previous 17 weeks, and forward for the next 17 weeks, to see where the peaks and troughs are. This will also help ensure there is no breach of the upper WTD limit with the flexibility to respond to operational needs when required safely. 

I refer to these as your WORKING TIME DIRECTIVE HOURS

Are there any additional benefits from what you have said?

The biggest impact of the flexibility provision is that the Inspecting ranks are no longer subject to a rigid eight-hour working day. That concept has gone, as has the term: “A meaningful tour of duty.” In effect, therefore, the working day can be as much as 23 hours 59 minutes or as little as a solitary minute.

This, when possible, can provide flexibility in your working hours. With an understanding from your line managers, it should be possible to ensure the minimum hours are met, WTD is not breached (with hours left for urgent operational matters), and rest days in lieu and shorter working days are used effectively to assist this. 

Using myself as an example, I have been a response team Inspector, safer neighbourhoods Inspector and a staff officer. As a response Inspector my duties were mainly aligned to that of the team with some flexibility around crossover times, as a neighbourhoods Inspector I had greater freedom but needed to ensure various commitments (police and community ones) were met and as a staff officer I worked more regular office hours with more flexibility at the beginning and at the end of the working day. 

When it comes to the well-being of Inspecting ranks, Belinda Goodwin, also a National Board member and PFEW lead for Wellbeing says the following:

“As the wellbeing lead for PFEW, and having worked with many Inspectors across my service, I have continually witnessed the lack of empathy for this rank. It is almost accepted because of the way they are paid, and they are salaried this could be open to abuse. Our Inspectors and Chief Inspectors are expected to make life-and-death decisions on behalf of the organisation. They deal with the most serious of incidents in order to implement the best possible response to keep the public safe, and to be able to make these decisions, we must insist that they are not fatigued or under so much pressure to deliver the best outcomes. To do this, forces must protect and make sure the Inspectors and Chief Inspectors are not working above and beyond on a daily basis, and they have the right to as much rest time and days off as officers of any other rank.”

It is nearly 30 years since the 1994 PNB Agreement and I would like to think the service has advanced around health, safety, and well-being. However, what was said by Paul Whitehouse, the then Vice-Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO, now the National Police Chiefs’ Council) I believe is still relevant. He wrote:

“Inspectors and Chief Inspectors, no less than other members of police forces, need to be able to plan for their work and their personal and family commitments. Consequently, it is important that they must be given, so far as the exigencies of duty permit, reasonable notice of when they will be required to be on duty. For sound reasons to do with health and welfare, the safety of others and effective working, no police officer should be required to work regular excessive hours, and over a period of time, each officer should be allowed to take the full entitlement to days free from the requirements of duty. This is a particular consideration in the case of Inspectors, Chief Inspectors and higher ranks, who are not paid for overtime.”


If you have any questions, please email john.partington@polfed.org.


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