Survey reveals impact of Covid-19 on police morale

Three out of four police officers feel they have been unfairly paid for the level of risk and responsibility required while working during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

Dec 2, 2020
By Tony Thompson
PFEW Chair John Apter

The annual Pay and Morale Survey polls the Federation’s 130,000 members to gather their views on pay and conditions as well as attitudes to work and the police service.

Around two-thirds (65 per cent) said the Covid-19 crisis had had a negative impact on their morale, and 31 per cent said their household was financially worse off than before the outbreak. Just over half (53 per cent) reported having to change their normal shift pattern due to the pandemic.
Nine out of ten of those surveyed said the way the police are treated as a whole was the factor most likely to have a detrimental effect on their morale, while 70 per cent said this factor had a major impact on their intention to leave the service.

PFEW national chair  John Apter said: “These results should give serious concern to chief constables and to government. The low morale reported by officers comes as no surprise, but the police service needs to take its head out of the sand and acknowledge we have a serious issue. My colleagues take the time to fill in these surveys and give their honest views, so it would be a failing by police leaders to ignore what is being said.

“This year, more than ever, officers have been put under significant pressure, dealing with the day job as well as policing the constantly changing Covid rules. Despite doing their very best, they have been turned into the villains of this pandemic by some, damned whatever they do; and this constant criticism takes its toll. Whilst it might come as a surprise to some, police officers are human beings; they have their own worries about the virus and the fear that they take it home to their families.

“I accept that the wellbeing of police officers is considered more now than it has ever been in the past, there is some good work going on in some forces, but the benefits of this good work are still not being felt by all of our members and that is a serious issue. This must be seen for what it is, a cry for help from police officers who need to ensure their voice is heard. If these results are ignored by police leaders, then this will be a failing that will be unforgiveable.”

The survey also revealed that 86 per cent of officers who completed the survey did not feel fairly paid in relation to the stresses and strains of the job.

Mr Apter added: “During the last decade officers have had an 18 per cent real term pay cut; now they face a public sector pay freeze next year, penalising the very people who have kept the wheels turning in the fight against Covid-19. Recruiting more police officers is welcome but looking after and valuing those doing the job now is every bit as important too.”

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • More than two-thirds of respondents said that they did not feel fairly paid for their experience and training (69 per cent) and have not been provided with fair pay compared to employees in other organisations (69 per cent);
  • Seventy-three per cent said that pay and benefits had a negative effect on their morale;
  • Around a third of respondents were worried about the state of their personal finances either every day or almost every day (37 per cent);
  • Respondents were most likely to say their morale has a major impact on their intention to leave (72 per cent) and that how the police are treated had a major impact on their intention to leave (70 per cent);
  • More than a third of respondents (34 per cent) said that they had not had access to adequate PPE when necessary during the Covid-19 crisis;
  • Less than a third of respondents said that they have had access to antigen testing via their force (31 per cent);
  • Almost one third (31 per cent) of respondents also reported that their household was financially worse off now than before the Covid-19 crisis;
  • A quarter (25 per cent) of respondents did not feel their force would be able to recruit the number of officers allocated for uplift; and
  • Respondents were more likely to say their force would not have enough ‘Tutor Constables’ to train new recruits (62 per cent), than to say their force would have enough (seven per cent).

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