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Police Federation

Rocketing demand and stress pushing officers towards resignation

18 September 2019

National Chair John Apter

National Chair John Apter

Low morale, stress and soaring demand are the main factors behind officers resigning, the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Leavers’ Survey has found.

More than half of respondents (51%) who participated in the rolling survey between October 2017 and April 2019, said their morale had a large part to play in their decision to exit the service and 40% admitted stress was one of the reasons.

The findings, which echo our last Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey, also reveal psychological health as an issue with 41% highlighting this was a driving factor and 39% saying their physical health contributed to their decision.

National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said: “These findings do not surprise me at all. This is yet more evidence, if it were needed, to prove to the Government and chief constables that my colleagues are at breaking point – or are unfortunately already broken and have been driven to leave the service due to low morale, stress and soaring demand.

“The service has been cut to the bone since 2010 with 22,000 fewer officers to protect the public, leaving our dedicated members with little option but to operate in a pressure-cooker environment, doing double the workload – now more likely single-crewed - with cancelled rest-days and holidays.

“Police officers are not robots, they are human beings. They are exhausted and consistently exposed to things people should never have to see with a large proportion also leaving because of the toll taken on their psychological health.

“Our members who have served 10 to 20 years were more likely to leave due to poor psychological and physical health which is something policing should be ashamed of. The apparent lack of willingness to fight to retain our most experienced officers is simply inexcusable and more must be done to ensure we look after our people.”

Other statistics include:

  • More than 8 out of 10 resigned because they reached pension age and have chosen to retire (81%)
  • Similarly, in terms of specific reasons for leaving, a majority said having access to their full pension (63%) and their length of service (54%) had a major effect on them leaving
  • The majority said they would never consider returning to the police service (66%)
  • Respondents were most likely to say a better work-life balance (30%) would make them reconsider their decision to leave, with around one in four saying improvements to welfare and a lower workload would make them reconsider
  • 28% said improved pension provisions would make them reconsider their decision to leave
  • 22% said that a higher salary would make them reconsider
  • Most respondents said interesting and varied work had a big influence on their motivation to join (71%), with a large majority (75%) satisfied with how interesting and varied their work had been
  • Job security was the factor respondents were most satisfied with (79%)
  • Opportunity for career advancement was the factor respondents were least likely to say they were satisfied with (27%)

Mr Apter added: “With the Government’s recruitment plans underway to bring the number of officers back up to how it almost was before, it will hopefully, and eventually, lighten the load – however this will take many years.

“For now, we need significant, centrally-funded investment to look after our officers we have, so they have access to essential, protective equipment such as Taser and so forces can provide better, consistent and more meaningful welfare support. The Government has also pledged to introduce a Police Covenant which would enshrine the welfare of officers in law and would have a hugely positive impact on our members which is good news.

“I always hear chiefs and politicians saying police service’s most valuable resource is its people - well now it’s time for them to deliver and prove it,” he concluded.

Findings within this report are based on the current total of 1,022 respondents to the leavers’ survey during the 18-month period between October 2017 and April 2019.

The PFEW Leavers’ Survey opened on 25th October 2017. The survey is a rolling survey, with no designated closing date.

The survey is open to any officer who is leaving within the next three months, including those who are retiring, resigning or being required to leave by their force.

A full copy of the report can be found here: https://www.polfed.org/media/15183/leavers-survey-report-2019-02-09-19-v013.pdf

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