Police Scotland harmonises pay and benefits for 6,000 staff

Police Scotland

Three years ago, national police force Police Scotland embarked on a project to harmonise its employee benefits, as well as its employment terms and conditions, for its 6,000 non-officer staff.

Known internally as the Staff Pay and Reward Modernisation Programme (SPRM), the project aimed to introduce equality and fairness to the employment package, harmonising the various legacy pay and benefits arrangements that existed, including varied salary, working hours and annual leave entitlements, prior to Police Scotland’s creation in 2013, when eight separate forces were combined.

The SPRM programme was implemented on 1 April 2019, creating a new 14-grade pay structure, introducing a 35-hour flexible working week and launching a host of new benefits and policies based on staff feedback.

Catering to employees’ opinions

To find out what staff wanted in terms of benefits and reward, Police Scotland conducted face-to-face briefing sessions, as well as a staff survey, called I Value. A total of 730 staff attended the briefings, while the survey received a 48% response rate.

This research found that the top five benefits staff wanted were flexible working hours, leave arrangements, personal and professional development opportunities, a better sick pay scheme and pay improvements.

Elizabeth Hossack, modernisation manager, employee relations and reward, says: “Proposals under the staff pay and reward side of things were absolutely shaped by staff.”

Work-life balance

One of the key changes Police Scotland introduced focused on working practices. Alongside the reduction to 35 working hours per week, it now applies a structure of operating hours between 7am and 7pm, with non-shift staff being able to dictate their own start and finish times within these boundaries. “For us, it modernises the working day and gives staff more flexibility,” Hossack explains.

Taking into account the cultural and structural change that has to take place to shift to a new pattern of working, Police Scotland ensured manager buy-in with dedicated briefing sessions, as well as regularly updating the SPRM intranet site with information about the new benefits, terms and conditions.

Annual leave was also updated under the SPRM programme; staff with up to four years of service now receive 28 days, plus six public holiday days per year, while employees with longer tenure can take 34 days of holiday, plus six public holidays. Employees can take their leave in days, hours or even minutes, and can apply for short notice annual leave, allowing them to take two days’ leave a year with only 24 hours’ notice.

Police Scotland has also introduced a new holiday purchase benefit, which became available in October 2019. Staff can now buy additional annual leave of up to one week; full-time employees may purchase 35 hours, while the allowance is pro-rated for part-time staff.

This raft of changes to the organisation’s leave policies were aimed at making it easier for staff to take time away, and to shape work around their personal lives. “We’re committed to wellbeing,” says Hossack. “We want people to take holidays. In fact, we want people to take more holidays.”

Supporting families

Police Scotland is also taking a more family-friendly approach within the SPRM project.

For example, the organisation has amended its special leave provisions to now include carers’ leave, enabling staff to take up to three days a year to accommodate both childcare and eldercare responsibilities.

“We know our workforce is changing,” Hossack says. “We know we have all these various generations in our workforce, from millennials to the sandwich generation, caring for kids and caring for parents as well.”

Police Scotland is also helping its employees with their family lives by introducing a benefit allowing for time off for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. Employees undergoing treatment themselves or supporting a partner are able to take paid leave equating to their weekly contracted hours for each cycle of IVF treatment, for up to three cycles in total.

In an update to the organisation’s maternity and adoption pay policy, staff are now able to request that their payments are provided in equal instalments over the course of the leave period. This has been designed to improve employees’ financial wellbeing and budgeting during this time.

Police Scotland offers six weeks of maternity and adoption leave at 90% of an employee’s salary, followed by 20 weeks at half pay plus statutory pay, 13 weeks at just statutory pay and a final 13 weeks of unpaid leave.

Improving pay fairness

Previously, employees working unsociable hours would receive a percentage of their salary as an additional payment, which meant that senior staff would receive a higher amount than their junior colleagues, despite both employees working the same unsociable hours shift.

As part of the SPRM project, Police Scotland introduced flat rates to be added to wages for unsociable hours. This ranges from £2.84 per hour for time worked between 9pm and 11pm or 6am and 7am on weekdays, as well as for hours worked at the weekend. Working night shifts, during the period of 11pm and 6am on any day, earns the higher flat hourly rate of £4.15. “For us, it felt like a fair thing to do,” Hossack explains.

Flat rates have also been introduced for disruption pay, where staff are reimbursed based on the gap between the start of the earliest shift and the end of the latest shift within their working pattern; disruption pay is a fixed amount, paid monthly, ranging from £800 per year, when the difference is between 10 and 13 hours, to £2,400 per year when it goes above 19 hours.

Police Scotland has also considered employees’ financial health with regards to unpaid leave. Rather than reducing their pay in one month to cover the entirety of a period of unpaid leave, employees have the option to spread these deductions across a 12-month period.

Public sector

Meeting staff needs while remaining within the boundaries set by the public sector can be tricky, says Hossack. For example, pay cannot be negotiated, because this is decided by overarching policies.

“Our challenge [is] that anything we explore [or] offer remains within the public sector pay policy parameters and the backdrop of a limited budget,” she explains.

To counter this, Police Scotland aims to reward staff in ways other than pay, one of which is a generous employer contribution to their pension, putting in around 19% of an employee’s salary.

Hossack says: “Our employment package has to provide something for all; however, as a public sector organisation, this has to be achieved against the backdrop of best value and the public purse.”


Consulting with employees on the revised terms and conditions when they came into effect this year included distributing job overview documents, conducting line manager briefings and hosting engagement events. Information packs were sent to all staff in January 2019, and included a personal outcome letter, explaining how the changes would affect individual members of staff.

When SRPM launched in April 2019, Police Scotland also introduced a new Policy Hub site, to present information on benefits, terms and conditions in an accessible, user-friendly format.

Moving forward

Despite the SPRM programme being a huge undertaking, Hossack and her team are still investigating what else they can add into the package for 2020-2021. For example, she is currently exploring producing total reward statements (TRS) in-house, as well as an option for car leasing.

Hossack concludes: “The benefits we offer align to our people strategy and demonstrate commitment to improving support for our [employees] and creating an environment where we will empower, enable and develop our people. It is important that our benefits attract and retain talent.

“The [benefits] philosophy is about making Police Scotland one of the best policing environments to work for, and therefore acknowledging that anything we do around our benefits, our employment package, needs to be fair, it needs to be competitive, it needs to offer good development opportunities and a real interesting environment where everyone contributes to overall goals.”

At a glance

Police Scotland is a national police force, employing around 6,000 staff in addition to 17,000 officers. Formally established on 1 April 2013, following the amalgamation of eight different police forces, Police Scotland now operates 13 local divisions responsible for promoting and improving safety and wellbeing across 28,168 square miles. It is the second largest police force in the UK, after the Metropolitan Police Service.

The business employs staff across a range of roles, covering areas such as local policing, command and control, the specialist crime division and the criminal justice services division. Specific positions include criminal intelligence analysts, production keepers, who process and transport items for potential use at court, service centre advisers providing 24-hour aid by answering 999 and 101 calls, and corporate functions including communications, marketing, finance, HR, people and development, and media relations.

Police Scotland’s non-officer workforce is aged between 45 and 54 on average, with women making up 63%. Around a quarter (25%) of the workforce have between 10 and 15 years’ service; 18% have a tenure between one and five years and 5% have worked at Police Scotland for 30 or more years.

Business objectives impacting benefits

  • To deliver Police Scotland’s long-term strategy, Serving a Changing Scotland; a core strand of this approach is to empower, enable and develop the organisation’s staff. Police Scotland aims to finish implementing this strategy by 2026.
  • To update policing practices to reflect modern society, for example accommodating technological advances.
  • To support employees to drive the success of Scottish policing.

Career history

Elizabeth Hossack, modernisation manager, employee relations and reward, was transferred from the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) to Police Scotland on 1 April 2013, when the organisation was initially created. She had been employed at SPSA for six years.

Hossack has undertaken numerous roles during her tenure at Police Scotland, including HR business partner and HR transition manager. Her latest role sees her tackling the design and implementation of organisational change projects. Prior to policing, Hossack worked within the engineering sector, for example at Babcock International, holding roles such as HR manager.

Tackling complex HR change programmes is what makes Hossack most proud. Projects she has worked on, for example, include a forensics modernisation project, developing a new national business model, and the delivery of a 24/7 shift working model for crime scene examination. Her best career achievement to date centres around her latest project, the Staff Pay and Reward Modernisation (SPRM) initiative.

“We had all these disparate police organisations of various pay grades, various terms and conditions and I was the lead for the terms and conditions side of that, bringing a whole set of complex pay and grading [environments], complex terms and conditions into one package that was acceptable to trade unions and colleagues,” Hossack says.

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