For this FAQ, we will not be reproducing all of the Regulations, as they are overly complex for what is a reasonably simple subject. However, the provisions can be found at Regulation 25 and Annex G. When we get to recalls to duty and advancing the start time of the next tour of duty, the Regulations are necessary to prove what we are saying!

Inspectors and above never receive ‘overtime’ in any circumstances.

Overtime for constables and sergeants is potentially payable (or time off in lieu may be taken) when an officer:

  • remains on duty after his/her tour of duty ends,
  • is recalled between two tours of duty, or
  • is required to begin earlier than the rostered time without due notice, and on a day s/he has already completed her/his normal daily period of duty.

Overtime is only reckoned in whole periods of fifteen minutes, and you always round down.

Planned overtime

Where an officer is informed at or before the commencement of his/her tour that s/he will be required to remain on duty after the tour ends, and s/he works less than 15 minutes overtime, s/he will not be eligible for any allowance.

If they work between 15 and 30 minutes overtime, they will be paid for the first 15 minutes only.

If they work 30 or more minutes, they will eligible for overtime for each completed 15-minute period.

Casual overtime

This term applies where officers are not informed at the commencement of their tour of duty that they will be required to remain on duty after the tour ends.

On each of the first four occasions in any week* when they work casual overtime, not having been informed at the commencement of the tour that this would be required, the first 30 minutes of such overtime worked is disregarded in calculating the overtime allowance due. This discount applies also to equivalent time off, should they choose time off in lieu of paid overtime. However, the deduction is made by the administration people, not by the officer. Thus, if you work two hours of casual overtime, you book two hours and admin. will take off the thirty minutes.

* A week is defined in the Regulations as a period of seven days beginning with such day as is fixed by the chief officer. In Essex, the week starts on a Monday.

These days, most overtime is casual. The effect of this Regulation is that four times in any week, you have to give the job half an hour of casual overtime for free. Some officers wonder how this came about as they see it as a bit of a cheek. The answer is in history. Previously, if an officer worked less than 30 minutes four times in a week, s/he lost that 30 minutes but if s/he worked for forty-five minutes or more, the entire time counted for overtime. In practice, it was not difficult to turn 25 minutes into 45 and so the 30-minute disregard rarely happened.

It was the post-Sheehy changes in 1994 that changed Regulations so that that first 30 minutes was completely disregarded. However, while an officer could not be paid, he or she could take the half hour as time off in lieu. In 2003, it was applied to time off in lieu as well.

At what rate is overtime paid?

In this section, we are talking about a normal working day. Forget rest days, public holidays, or annual leave.

Overtime is paid at time and one-third. That means if you reckon an hour and a half of overtime, your six units become eight.

If I take time off, do I still lose the 30 minutes I give for free?

Yes. See the second paragraph in ‘Casual overtime,’ above.

Can I be made to take time off?

No. When you work overtime, it is your choice whether you are paid or take time off.

Every now and again, someone forwards us an email where a manager is foolishly saying that the budget has run out and there will be no paid overtime. Bluntly, that isn’t your problem. If there is no budget then they can find someone else to deal with the job. The Police Regulations stipulate that you have a choice between payment and time off. If management refuse to pay you, they are breaking the law and render themselves liable to discipline.

Remember that the time off is at the same rate as the overtime. If you have reckoned 6 units it becomes 8, meaning you can take two hours as Time Off In Lieu of overtime. That is where the phrase TOIL comes from. It has nothing to do with owed rest days.

I booked a day off as TOIL and now I have to work.

Unfortunately, you get no compensation for this. You just get the time back. However, see the answer to “I elected to take TOIL, but haven’t had the chance.”

I elected to take TOIL, but haven’t had the chance.

When you choose to take time off instead of being paid, you have to take that time off within three months of working the overtime. If you don’t then the overtime must be paid. This affects the answers to the previous two questions.

If overtime that an officer chooses to take as TOIL is put onto PROMIS, there is no way for it to trigger payment after three months. TOIL must stay on the finance systems.

If you booked a day off as TOIL but then had to work, you still have the option to have the overtime paid instead.

I received a telephone call at home when I was off duty. Can I claim overtime?

Maybe. The only time this happens is if you are officially on-call for something, and you receive a telephone call about the matter for which you are on call. This is classified as a recall to duty (see below) and you may reckon a minimum of four hours overtime at the appropriate rate for the sort of day it is (working day: time and one third; rest day or public holiday: double time).

NB. The Federation does not believe that any officer should be on-call on a rest day or public holiday, but it happens.

The authority for this derives from the case of Lavelle v Chief Constable of Northumbria, which was about a Police Search Advisor. The Judge said,

“In the first place it is necessary to see whether on a particular occasion the Claimant was doing something he was required to perform. If he was, it matters not that he does not receive a specific instruction, “you are recalled to duty.” He is being recalled to his duty by the fact of the call upon him at a time when it is his duty to respond. For that reason, I would distinguish those occasions when the Claimant was not actually rostered as on-call. On those occasions, he could, if approached for help, do as he did on one occasion and refer the enquiry to someone who was. If on those occasions he took the call, he was strictly, it seems to me a volunteer doing what he did as a matter of goodwill and no doubt because it would reflect well upon him that he did it.

“Second, I do not think that there would be a recall to duty if the Claimant did not engage in some way with the call in a way that amounted to a performance of his duty as a Police Search Adviser. Even on occasions when he was rostered, if the result of answering the call was simply to deflect it in some way, because there had been a mistake in calling upon him or the call was about something which was outwith his particular expertise, or for some other similar reason, it would not seem to me he was recalled to his duty. But if he engaged with the enquiry and dealt with it within the scope of his duty as a Police Search Adviser, it seems to me that it falls within the Regulations as a recall.”

As an example, an officer is rostered to be on-call in his/her capacity as a Public Order Tactical Advisor (POTA). S/he is at home having completed a tour of duty. The officer receives a telephone call about public order for the sole reason that s/he is a POTA. The officer has been recalled to duty and can claim a minimum of four hours overtime at time and one third as compensation for the disturbance.

This was never the case before the court case. The media – briefed no doubt by the Home Office and/or ACPO – has made much of this as “an old Spanish practice.” However, the reason it came about was that there was no on-call allowance in existence. On-call was undertaken for love – as it still is pending the outcome of the pending arbitration on the PNB Staff Side’s claim for an allowance.

The judgement also makes clear that if the officer was on-call, but contacted about something that had nothing to do with him/her being the on-call POTA, it did not constitute a recall to duty.

If you are called about a court warning, duty change, or anything else work-related, you are not being recalled to duty and there is no overtime claim. However, the telephone conversation (on-call or not) does constitute working time and should be recorded as such.

I got involved in something off duty. What can I claim?

There are no Regulations, PNB Agreements around this one. This is Essex Police Policy:


The following guidance is given for ‘off duty’ officers placing themselves ‘on duty’:

In general when acting in purported performance of their duties as constables, all officers will be regarded as being ‘on duty’ and thus be afforded the protection that such a state entails. If in so doing, however, they commit any illegal act(s) the position becomes less clear and it could well be held that they are not acting in execution of their duty.

It cannot be right that an off duty officer can walk down a street, see an out of date tax disc on a car, and put him or herself on duty and claim overtime to record the details. That is daft. It would be a licence to print money completely outside the control of management.

There is sometimes a discussion to be had about whether the officer did any more than a member of the public would have done in the same circumstances. Police officers are in an interesting position because we do not really have the option to walk on by and ignore a situation crying out for an intervention. Managers being asked to authorise overtime for what an officer did off duty should consider how they would respond to a complaint that an off-duty officer did not act. Would the manager be considering misconduct for neglect of duty? We suggest that in most cases there will be a valid claim. However, officers who find trouble every rest day can expect to be looked at very carefully!

If this has happened to you or to a member of your staff, talk it through and exercise common sense and fairness on both sides.