Blog: Parity for Mutual Aid officers

28 June 2018

Simon Kempton

Operational policing lead Simon Kempton

Operational policing lead Simon Kempton explains our work to ensure 'overnight allowances' are paid to all police officers providing mutual aid.

Unless you have been living on another planet you’re probably aware that the most powerful man in the world is coming to visit the UK in a couple of weeks.

On Thursday 12 July Donald J Trump will touch down in Air Force One, and part of the responsibility for protecting him will fall on the epauletted shoulders of British Policing.

Now in order to ensure that the 45th president of the United States remains safe and secure during his trip thousands of police officers are being moved around the country, many staying away from their own home forces, to cover the locations Mr Trump will be visiting.

To say this is a logistically challenging event is an understatement. In fact it is unprecedented in its policing demands.

Huge numbers of police officers are taken away from their own forces, in turn leaving their colleagues behind and under additional pressure.

For officers who will be working unsocial hours away from their normal place of duty this event has brought into sharp focus the issue of ‘Overnight Allowances.’

This is something I have been heavily involved in campaigning for since I joined the Federation but it has been taking up increasing amounts of time since Mr Trump announced his intention to visit. 

The name of this payment itself is something of a misnomer. You do not – as you may expect – automatically get compensated if you are forced to be away from home because of a work deployment.

What these payments should be called are ‘Held in Reserve Allowances.’ What the regulations say on the subject is that in order to qualify for the £50 payment an officer must be held in reserve; and to be deemed to be ‘held in reserve’ and officer must:

a) be away from their normal place of duty
b) be required to stay in a ‘particular, specified place’ overnight, rather than being allowed home
c) by reason of the need be ready for immediate deployment.

Now there’s the thing. That last criteria ‘be ready for immediate deployment’. That’s the sticking point. If you are not actively on stand-by (if that makes sense!) then you do not necessarily qualify for the payment. And all these elements must be present if the allowance is to be paid.

You may be starting to see why this is taking up such a large chunk of my time and has become something of a crusade for me.

Mutual Aid is not always undertaken as a choice. Officers can be lawfully ordered to go where they are needed.  It’s a part of the job that many enjoy and want to undertake, but the goodwill and enthusiasm will only last so long if officers feel they are being exploited.

The Federation is taking legal advice around the rights of officers deployed on Mutual Aid, what recourse we have as an organisation to pursue this through the courts, and whether the precedent set in a case in Scotland regarding payment to officers there can be applied in England and Wales.

I am also clarifying what restrictions can be lawfully placed on officers who are deployed, but are not deemed to qualify for the allowance.

I have been discussing and arguing with the Chiefs and everyone else involved to ensure that our members to get consistency and fairness when it comes to this payment.

So far several of the Chiefs involved have come on board for this event and have agreed to pay all officers who are away from home. And I thank them for recognising the importance of acknowledging that this payment is about more than just numbers on a spreadsheet - and the effect on morale it will have on those who will be paid, and on those who won’t. It recognises the unique position that police officers find themselves in in order to serve and protect.

But despite increasing numbers of Chiefs coming out and saying they will fund the payment, disappointingly, some are still dragging their heels.

I accept that money is short. I know we have all had to tighten our belts and our purse-strings. But this is not the way to do it. If these payments are withheld the cost is more than fiscal.

Officers are facing unprecedented demands with diminishing resources. Mutual aid and the need for national deployments are a natural consequence of the reduction in police force numbers. Every time it happens it has an impact on officers, and the public who then get a reduced service as a result.

We simply don’t have the resilience we did and, therefore, sometimes officers need to be mobilized to provide the necessary cover. And as these incidents become more common the need for clarity surrounding this allowance increases.

The President’s visit makes good news copy with the media screaming about the cost and the resources required. But it is just one of dozens of incidents which happen every year which necessitate the mobilization of officers and this should be recognised.

I care about this 365 days of the year not just the few days Mr Trump is here.

So I urge the Chiefs and the Government to get their houses in order and confirm they will pay the allowance to all officers who are forced away from their family and friends because of this visit; and to commit to then re-examining the qualification criteria to appropriately reflect the sacrifice made by officers going forward.