Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of all POA members.

Forced Detached Duty

HMPPS are now in a position whereby they will force Band 3 Prison Officers to attend detached duty sites for a 14-day period, if they are unable to secure enough volunteers. NEC representatives are on hand to advise local committees if your Prison is forced to ‘compel’ staff to attend for detached duty. In a recent letter to Governors from the Directorate, the following statement was made:

Operational guidance for compelling NDD has been agreed with the PGA and the POA “

I wish to make it clear to all POA members that the National Executive are vehemently opposed to forced detached duty and although it is correct that we have been consulted over guidance documents that  relate to compelling’ staff to attend detached duty sites, we did not agree with HMPPS over forcing staff to attend detached duty and did not agree with this guidance document that has been issued to Governors.

The statement from HMPPS should have made it clear that the POA have been consulted about the Operational Guidance for compelling NDD. The POA did not agree it.

Capacity pressures

Due to the ongoing staffing crisis and the pressure for prison spaces the following has been announced by HMPPS:

Given the continued capacity issues across the prison estate and associated staffing pressures, Headquarters (HQ) staff are being released to the frontline to help with the mitigating actions to address this ongoing issue. Every effort will be made to fulfil commitments using volunteers however, demand for support may exceed the supply that HQ can provide through volunteers. As a result, we will be required to direct staff from HQ Functions to support the business as needed.

The initial ask is that each directorate provides 3% of its current Staff in Post (Headcount) to be deployed to support the front line. If these numbers do not meet the demand, then the deployment requirement could increase to 10%.

Oral Pay Evidence

On 21st March we submitted our oral evidence to the Pay Review Body (PRB). The PRB hope to finalise their recommendations and submit it to Government at some point in June.


The Government announced an additional non-consolidated payment to be made in addition to the imposed 2022/23 settlement. The amount to be paid is in the region of 6% depending on Bands. This is a one-off payment for 2022/23 only.

In addition, the Government has offered a pay increase of 5.2% for 2023/24, this will apply to all grades of staff.

The POA is currently balloting its members at Ashworth and Rampton on the 2022/23 pay offer, and this will continue with the ballot closing on 12th April at Midday.

NHS Pay Offer Scotland

POA members at Carstairs have accepted the NHS pay offer. Below is the outcome of the recent 2023/24 pay ballot that took place at Carstairs with the POA membership.

Papers Given Out – 300

Ballot Papers Returned – 286

Spoilt Papers – 0

Votes in Favour of Accepting the Pay Offer – 229

Votes Against Accepting the Pay Offer – 57

Home to Work Car Sharing Scheme

HMPPS have relayed the following information to staff:

“Since its launch earlier this year, the up-take and usage of the car-sharing scheme has been low. We have therefore decided not to pursue an extension to the scheme and the pilot will end as planned on the 31 March. We will focus on other forms of support to staff in the light of cost-of-living challenges.”

Covid related absences

HMPPS have informed us that from 17 March any Covid related absence will be treated like any other illness in line with the Attendance Management Policy PSI 1/2017:

For sickness absence purposes, COVID-19 type symptoms should be treated in the same way as other respiratory illness symptoms. Managers should record any new absences from that date under the category COVID-19 from day 1. Where an absence with COVID like symptoms reaches a trigger point, this will no longer be automatically disregarded. However, managers are encouraged to view any reasonable absence where there are COVID-19 type symptoms in a supportive way, using their discretion where appropriate having considered the circumstances of the case. All Respiratory illnesses including COVID-19 absence will now count towards absence recording.

The membership should be aware that the employer wished to return to the normal sickness absence policy in November 2022 and if it had not been for the stoical response from the NEC we would not have secured such a beneficial position for the membership. The Prison Service is the last public sector body to dispense with Covid related concessions. 

Commons debate on retirement age

The POA have secured a debate on the retirement age of Prison Officers in the House of Commons via Earl Attlee . It is a  one-hour debate on "Reasons for setting a retirement age of 68 for newly recruited prison officers and whether that retirement age is appropriate and in the public interest". The debate is scheduled  for Thursday 30th  March 2023. Members can watch the debate back via Parliament TV.

Staff Fitness Test

HMPPS have confirmed that the staff fitness test will not be reintroduced in April as they are still considering their options in relation to the fitness test. Until the review has been completed and a final decision is made the fitness test continues to be paused. Once the future of the fitness test has been finalised the membership will be updated. It is unclear when the test will be reintroduced if HMPPS decide to keep it.

Ceramics in Prisons

I am aware via the daily incident reports that over the past few weeks staff have been attacked by Prisoners with ceramic cups. This subject was addressed several years ago but is obviously still an issue. In order to clarify the situation once and for all POA members should take note of the following which is non-negotiable:

Under no circumstances in any Prison of any category inclusive of the YCS, female and Open estate, should any prisoner have in their possession any item of ceramics inclusive of cups and plates. All POA members should immediately remove any ceramic items that are in a prisoners possession and return them to stored property. 

Your safety at work is paramount and prisoners should not have ceramic items of any description in their possession. Please protect yourselves in the workplace and ensure all ceramic items are removed from cells.


The NEC are currently engaged in consultations surrounding HMPPS proposals to issue ‘volunteer’ Prison Officer grades with nasal Naloxone which is a prescription drug that is used on people who overdose on opioids. We have consistently stated to the employer that this proposal which requires staff to receive specialist training and is obviously a major responsibility, should attract additional salary payments. Any additional responsibility or skill that requires specific training should attract appropriate renumeration. HMPPS have once again decided to ignore our request insisting that Prison Officers will ‘volunteer’ for this responsibility and they are confident they will attract sufficient volunteers from the ranks.

The NEC are consistently asking the Pay Review Body to agree to pay our members an annual retainer to upskill and retain business critical qualifications. However, we are consistently stifled by the amount of members who are willing to ‘volunteer’ for important roles that attract zero additional salary. Last year’s pay body recommendations included the following statement:

“In the course of our discussions with the parties at oral evidence, we did not hear any evidence to suggest that there was a lack of volunteers to undertake these roles and therefore we do not see a compelling case to introduce a payment for these tasks and consider it reasonable within any grading framework for some additional duties to be undertaken. We believe that staff who undertake these additional roles are attracted to do so for personal development in their current and future roles.”

POA members are reminded that ‘volunteers’ cannot be forced and the more staff that ‘volunteer’ for additional specialist roles or tasks the less likely it is that the NEC will be able to secure additional payments for such skills.


All the best.

Mark Fairhurst
National Chair

Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.