Probation: Operation Protect

‘Operation Protect’ is the name for a new joint union Workloads Campaign in the Probation Service. The campaign was launched on 26 June 2023.

  • Workloads for all staff across the Service are too high
  • Staff are working under too much stress
  • Public safety, our members’ health and wellbeing and the integrity of probation as a profession are all at risk
  • Probation is full.
  • Unmanageable workloads must stop.

Here’s how UNISON, Napo and GMB/SCOOP propose to achieve this:

Work with Ministers, HMPPS, HMIP, Probation Institute, Sentencers & Statutory Partners to agree a strategic probation workload reduction programme by:

  1. Reviewing existing legislative demands which do not add value to core probation work
  2. Identifying other upstream demand reduction
  3. Eliminating or reducing bureaucratic demands which do not add value to core probation work (data management etc)
  4. Identifying and addressing barriers to productivity (IT systems etc)
  5. Surveying the workforce for their ideas on workload reduction
  6. Agreeing a Probation Workloads Reduction Toolkit.
  7. Agreeing a Probation Service equivalent of the Prison Service ‘Operation Safeguard’ to allow the Service to declare to external stakeholders that it is full, and that normal service cannot be provided pending more resources


Agree a safe workloads and case allocation system which will:

  1. Be jointly agreed between the probation unions and the employer
  2. Ensure that each employee’s workload is regularly assessed
  3. Provide staff and managers with the tools to prioritise certain work and to agree which work should be suspended (temporarily or permanently)
  4. Respect probation practitioners’ professional judgement about workload capacity which if they were covered by an independent professional registration body might require them to declare any excessive workload which might affect their fitness to practice
  5. Take contingency action when workloads exceed staffing capacity

Ensure that all staff have high quality supervision, when and how they need it, to manage workload effectively by:

  1. Agreeing appropriate supervisor to staff ratios
  2. Employing more supervisors as necessary
  3. Providing training, support and mentoring to supervisors
  4. Ensuring that supervisors have authority to reduce workloads via decisions on case allocation


Give probation staff the confidence, tools and support to challenge excessive workloads by: 

  1. An employer pledge to prevent workloads above capacity – to be shared with external stakeholders
  2. The right for staff to work contracted hours only – no quibble guarantee
  3. Voluntary overtime to be offered to staff who wish to offer more time to the employer.
  4. The overtime seniority bar to be removed.

Reach an Employee Care Agreement with the Probation Service to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of probation staff by:

  1. Undertaking the necessary risk assessments
  2. Taking measures to remove stress.
  3. Taking measures to support staff to remain in work


UNISON members are encouraged to get involved in our workloads campaign at your workplace. Following the campaign launch we will be rolling out initiatives across England and Wales for members to get involved.


UNISON is campaigning for safe workloads in the Probation Service and to protect our members’ health, safety and welfare. The more members we have in Probation, the stronger we can be on your behalf. See our resource section for how to join.


Joint union campaign leaflet

Joint union campaign header

Joint union campaign header (Welsh language):