I noticed the other day that the the Independent discovered that some cops are raking in a small fortune in overtime. The reality is somewhat different.
Firstly, the article tells us that ’hundreds’ are earning fantastic sums - this against a total of about 120,000 police officers. ‘Tens of thousands of police earning flat rate pay’ isn’t exactly a gripping headline. Look closely again about the numbers involved - and the Met, which earns the Lions share - also has the DPG and Royalty Protection officers who travel, cover all sorts of events and get paid for what they do. An observation is made about the overall overtime bill - fair enough I suppose - then this is compared with Britons struggling under the credit crunch - taking pay cuts - or short time working. A thoughtful comparison perhaps - but what about the bankers in the City of London getting bonuses effectively paid by the taxpayer - much more money - spread far less widely - for less deserving workers?
That’s not to say that the current overtime regulations are perfect - but at least they are fair - even if the application is not. To explain properly - unlike the article - overtime is paid at four rates - not three.
The first is plain time for part time officers working above their agreed part time hours. The next rung is time and a third - less half an hour for the Queen - paid for working past finishing time. To illustrate, this is the rate paid if you were due to finish at say five pm, and you arrest a shoplifter at quarter to four. If you are still at work at half five, then the meter starts ticking - usually in fifteen minute chunks. After a ten hour shift, then some recompense to stay on is needed - there are times when we’d do it for free - no questions asked - such as a search for a misper. But to stay on and deal with standing at a ‘scene’ usually a doorstep or dull street, then bribery is the best motivator.
The next stage is the rest day rate - payable at time and a half with fifteen to five days notice, this is usually for a minimum eight hour shift (and occasionally much more or a bit less). This tends to be the big earner - to plug gaps in cover, to provide staff for events, football, concerts, demos, initiatives, operations, taking excess prisoners from the prison service (Operation Safeguard…. Of which more later…). Basically time and half overtime pays for much of the policing at say the G8, Old Trafford - anywhere where seas of yellow fluorescent jackets are to be seen.
The last rung is the premium rate, saved for the Bank/Public holidays, and for notice of less then five days. This pays for the cops on Christmas Day…. And the other days when you may find yourself stuck in an airport departure lounge or on a four lane rolling traffic jam. It is also the carrot dangled to get uniforms and boots on at short notice - I have on occasion answered the call to get changed and come into work for the promise of ‘double bubble’ - but the reality is that the SLT and the finance department are loathe to pay unnecessary double time pay.
I’m not convinced that police overtime is much of an issue as there are relatively few high earners. I’ve had precious few large pay slips and a flat month is the norm for me at the minute. The few earning more than an Inspector are few and far between, and I would suggest are working in very specialised units - and I doubt they are combining rest day working and stopping on - I suggest it’s one or the other. So while it makes for a gripping headline, - and the whole budget, shared out amounts to about £318 per month, per PC or Sgt, suddenly this is much less when factoring in Special Priority Pay and Competency Pay - so what’s all the fuss about?