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



The employer is seeking to expand the number of ‘volunteers’ who carry this prescription drug in our Prisons, despite their previous efforts to advertise for volunteers, they now wish to recruit more. POA members are reminded that if they continue to ‘volunteer’ for additional skills without being renumerated we will never convince the Pay Review Body to reward you financially for the additional tasks you perform. Volunteering for additional tasks and responsibilities will not pay your bills. 

Adjusted Fitness tests for Specialists

HMPPS have confirmed the following will apply 

Following the recent review of fitness testing a number of recommendations were approved by POM-C, including the recommendation that fitness testing to remain in its current format for new officer recruitment, specialists (as per the fitness testing policy) and C&R. It has now been agreed that the within the specialist group, General Purpose Dog Handlers (GPDH) will be able to undertake a reasonably adjusted fitness test (RAFT).

The RAFT is only available for GPDH staff following a recommendation from Occupational Health (OH). It allows a reasonable adjustment for staff deemed medically unsuited to the twists, turns, stops and starts of the ‘bleep’ test. Staff will still need to undertake running on the speed and agility element of the fitness test.

The Chester Treadmill Police Walking Test (CTPWT) is a reasonable adjustment to the ‘bleep’ test. This treadmill test has been specifically developed to test aerobic output and is a valid and reliable alternative test. Individuals will be provided with a comprehensive training programme and full testing protocols to assist their preparation for the test. Six weeks will be allowed for training before the 1st test on the treadmill and between any re-tests.

The other main recommendations following the review of fitness testing are:

  • Where specialist testing for applicable groups (as per the current fitness testing policy) remains in place, dismissal or regrade will be replaced with relocation for those who fail (process to be designed).
  • Specialist Staff Fitness Testing (SSFT) arrangements remain in place for specific staff, all staff need to ensure their fitness test is in date (lasts for 12 months) prior to attending their relevant course.

Pensions Cost Cap Appeal

You may recall that the POA formed part of a joint trade union claim that argued the Government had acted illegally by passing the costs of the recent successful ‘McCloud’ Judgement onto the scheme members. On 24th April the Unions lost an appeal over changes to public sector pensions which now allows the Government to pass the 19-billion-pound cost of pension reforms on to workers. 


The outcomes of the operator competitions recently held for both HMP Ashfield (category C training prison, Bristol) and HMP Millsike (new build category C resettlement prison, Yorkshire) have now been confirmed. HMP Ashfield was built under a Public Finance Initiative (PFI) and has been operated by Serco since 1999. A competition has been run to manage and maintain the prison for the next 10 years, with the aim of ensuring a safe, seamless transition for staff and prisoners and delivering a high-quality, value-for-money service in line with the Government’s priorities. Serco has been awarded the new contract for HMP Ashfield.  HMP Millsike next to HMP Full Sutton is a new build prison due to open in spring 2025. Following competition, Mitie has been appointed to manage and maintain the prison for 10 years.

Capability Meetings

It has been brought to the attention of the NEC that some HR advisors are informing Governors it is acceptable to dismiss a member of staff on medical inefficiency grounds without their compensation payment estimate being made available to them prior to the capability meeting.

Under no circumstances should any POA member attend a capability meeting unless they have been provided with a compensation estimate prior to the meeting.

The following was agreed in 2017 between the POA and HMPPS:

Compensation for Medical Inefficiency Estimates

In normal circumstances, all compensation estimates should be provided to the employee before a formal meeting to consider downgrade/regrade or dismissal, but on occasions where it is not possible to provide this 5 working days in advance, HMPPS will ensure a manually calculated estimate is available instead.  

It is inadvisable to accept a ‘guesstimate’ from an unqualified Governor when it comes to considering compensation payments. There is no excuse for not having a formal compensation payment figure from the pension provider MYCSP.

If any POA committee is concerned they may be affected by ‘rogue’ advice from HR advisors they should immediately contact their area NEC Representative.

Late Receptions

The NEC are aware of a number of concerns from POA members working in reception areas who are being subject to processing late receptions after cut off times. This is due to the escort provider not abiding by agreed contractual obligations. In many instances staff are significantly late off duty due to Governors being overruled and being forced to accept late receptions. The NEC are raising these concerns nationally.

All POA members who work in Reception are reminded of their workplace rights which include:

  • Every member of staff has the right to finish their shift at their official shift finish time.
  • No member of staff can be forced on the spot to extend their shift beyond their official shift finish time unless an Operational Emergency is called.
  • The only person who can call an Operational Emergency is the Director General.
  • If staff owe TOIL hours they can be forced to extend their shift but only if they are given 48 hours notice of a planned shift extension.
  • If any member of staff extends their shift on the day they must have agreed to volunteer to do so.
  • Any member of staff who extends their shift and finishes their shift after their official shift end time is entitled to a full 11 hours rest period between their shift end and next shift start time, unless they have voluntary opted out of the European Working Time Directive.

Please consider the above if you are placed in a position where you are being expected to process late receptions.

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.