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Recruitment to fill specialist roles still difficult says NCA

Record intake to agency last year but pay freeze halts bid to even up pay rates with police forces and other agencies
Published - 28/04/2021 By - Gary Mason

The NCA has difficulty filling a number of specialist roles and is too dependent on the skills of an ageing workforce many of who are close to retirement, according to evidence submitted to the agency’s pay negotiating body.

However it says that recruitment rates for the majority of roles have improved through the introduction of a Spot Rate pay system which rewards officers for “demonstrated additional skills and capabilities.”

By March this year the NCA’s establishment has grown to just over 6,161 posts an increase of 1,240 officers – the agency’s highest ever annual intake.

But in its evidence to the NCA Remuneration Review Body (NCARRB) it says that roles not subject to the Spot Rate system remain hard to fill.

It says: “The Agency still has a number of hard to fill roles, and our recruitment data shows that we do not attract the quality or quantity of candidates required in all specialist areas. This next phase of our pay reform will hone those roles, to support our attraction strategy, so that we can close this gap in key critical areas.”

The Spot Rate structure now covers eligible roles across Grade 1-5s. The NCA wants to extend it across all operational roles.

But due to the Home Office pay freeze it is not able to do this but hopes to resume the expansion of the system from 2022. 

Current skills shortages include within the CSERB who work with forces on sexual abuse cases. From September 2019 to August 2020, 13 posts in the CSERB were advertised. This resulted in only 8 offers being made across all posts, and only a 22% application to offer conversion rate.

Technical posts including covert, intrusive surveillance and cyber skills to provide operational support also had a poor take up rate.

For example Grade 4 Technical Operations posts were advertised in mid-2020. The role  requires specialist knowledge in covert cyber scenarios. The recruitment campaign attracted no candidates. When this role was advertised again, later in 2020, only two applications were received. Whilst one was unsuitable, the other was made an offer. This offer was turned down on the basis of a higher salary offered elsewhere.

The NCA admits its current levels of pay are behind the police market in all grades but they are generally competitive with the Civil Service market.

For example the maximum Grade 1 salary for the NCA (comparable to chief superintendent)  is £63,000 compared to £83,000 in the police service.

For Grade 5 (PC/Sgt equivalent) the maximum NCA salary in £28,840 compared to £37,931.

The agency says it has improved how it recruits officers by moving to a recruitment pipeline model.

As a result frontline investigations and intelligence roles have increased the number of candidates in their pipeline by up to 712% over 3 years.

But the number of specialist firearms candidates in the recruitment pipeline between 2018 and 2020 have reduced by 28% and the number of specialist intelligence and investigations officers by 41%.

The NCA’s workforce is also biased towards longer serving officers, with a significant dependency on those who either had retired and returned (where pay was less of a priority) or were within 5 years of retirement.

Nearly a third of the Agency’s officers are aged 50 or over and retirement is the second most popular reason for leaving the NCA, comprising nearly a fifth of all leavers.

“This experience is invaluable, but it also creates a sustainability risk, where many officers can retire in a short space of time,” the NCA says in its submission.

“We cannot function effectively at the high end of high harm if all vacancies are filled by trainees; we require a blended approach.”

The Agency has been developing its internal development pipeline,focusing on training and development programmes that will enable officers to join at an ear

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