If you’re thinking about joining the police force, but don’t quite know how many hours will be expected from you, look no further – we’re here to help clear things up!
It’s no secret that police officers often work long and gruelling shifts. After all, crime doesn’t come to a halt after 5 pm like a traditional corporate job. Law enforcement operates on a 24-hours per-day, seven-days-a-week basis therefore police officers are generally expected to work full-time hours – typically amounting to 40 hours per week.
Today, we explore how many hours a police officer works each day and per week, traditional shift patterns, and additionally cover the expected hours in Scotland.
How many hours per week do Police officers work?
Most commonly, a police officer is expected to work on a full-time basis completing 40 hours per week across a consecutive four or five-day pattern.
The terms of your weekly shift pattern can widely vary depending on which department you work in. For example, some divisions may require their patrol officers to work five consecutive eight-hour shifts followed by two days off. Others may require you to work longer hours during your shift followed by more days off during the week.
If your department requires you to work more hours during your shift, the usual expected hours can range from 10 hours based on a four-day work week, or 12 hours based on a three-day work week.
Another factor to consider is that your weekends may no longer fall on the traditional Saturday and Sunday. But don’t let this put you off, your weekly shift pattern is laid out far in advance, so you know exactly which days you are on and off. Additionally, it’s best to be prepared for the numerous night shifts you will serve throughout your career. While the majority of the world sleeps, your duty to protect and serve the community doesn’t come to a stop!
How hours per week do Police officers work in Scotland?
In Scotland, there is no difference in the amount of hours a police officer is required to work. Much like the rest of the UK, police officers are required to work on a full-time basis of 40 hours per week across a consecutive four or five-day pattern.
Additionally, police officers serving in Scotland can work a variety of shift patterns depending on which department they serve. We will cover this in more detail in the next section.
Police officer shift hours
Serving as a police officer requires flexibility to work across a variety of shift schedules. Typically, a police officer is on duty anywhere between 8, 10, or 12 hours per shift.
Some common examples of expected shifts include:
- Between 0700 – 1600
- Between 1400 – 0000
- Between 2200 – 0700
Longer shift hours usually result in fewer workdays per week. For example, if a police officer works 4 consecutive days completing 10-hour shifts, they will be entitled to 3 days off during that week.
Additionally, police officers may also work on a rotating day off basis. This means that, rather than having set consecutive days off, you may have weekly rotating days off. For example, one week you may have Saturday and Sunday off and then Monday and Tuesday off the next.
As with most jobs, the longer you have served as a police officer, the more benefits you are likely to receive in terms of your shift schedule. For example, if you have served a longer service than your peers, known as seniority, you may be entitled to ‘Shift-Start Bidding’ – a process that allows you to apply for your preferred start time allowing more control over your schedule.
Another common working pattern for police officers is rotating monthly shifts. Allowing for a more predictable work-life balance, officers can work on a three-month or six-month shift rotation whereby they work to a specific schedule each month and then switch to another several months later.
Hours worked in a day
Typically, police officers are expected to work either 10 or 12-hour shifts amounting to a full-time schedule of 40 hours per week.
Depending on the location and department of the serving police officer, overtime above and beyond the usual 40 hours per week is much required. Completely dependent on an officer’s availability, they can legally work up to 18 hours within a 24-hour period.
However, unless absolutely necessary, it is usually advised against doing so. It is no surprise that the role of a police officer often comes with both physical and mental strain. And to avoid burnout, it’s vital that an officer is well-rested before each shift.
It’s also useful to note that while all overtime will be paid directly to an officer each month, any extra hours can also be accounted for by way of extra holidays throughout the year.
To conclude, police officers in the UK are expected to work on a full-time basis. Whether that be via rotating monthly shifts or weekly shifts is entirely dependent on the department’s needs.
As a police officer continues to rank higher in seniority relating to the length of service, more flexibility will be granted in terms of shift starting times and the days off they desire.
Police officers play an important role in protecting and serving the community so it’s imperative that they enter the role with absolute flexibility and willingness to work outside of the usual 9-5 hours.