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Operational Support Grade

Join our team

What is an Operational Support Grade?

Ensuring that prisons run safely and smoothly takes teamwork. Everyone has a role to play. As an Operational Support Grade (OSG), you don’t need any previous experience – we will give you all the training you need. Whatever your skillset, there is a place for you here!

The variety of your work keeps the prison moving. From welcoming family members and visitors, to monitoring CCTV and reporting contraband.

Find out how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


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Discover prison service opportunities

Rewards and training

As an OSG you will play a key role in supporting the daily running of the prison, ensuring it operates smoothly. As part of our Operational Support team you will:

  • keep our prisons safe and secure
  • often be the first point of contact for the public and people working in criminal justice
  • welcome family members, visitors and lawyers
  • supervise prisoners at times, depending on the prison you work in
  • monitor offender mail and phone calls
  • check CCTV
  • patrol perimeters
  • carry out security checks and searches
  • report contraband items
  • occasional prison vehicle driving in some prisons

searching car

Your role will be risk assessed based on your choice of prison. You will be offered the training required to undertake core tasks safely.  Some duties such as vehicle driving will require an on the job assessment and this will be offered if relevant to you.

Your role in HMPPS

You will work for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS), which is part of the Ministry of Justice.

HMPPS is responsible for managing all prison and probation services across England and Wales.

Being part of the prison and probation service means you will have opportunities across the entire estate.

Learn about HMPPS and what we do.

Most prisons work with a changing shift pattern of an average of 37 hours a week. This can include working some nights, weekends and public holidays (these days are added to your holiday allowance).

Shifts usually follow regular hours although the start and finish time may vary depending on your prison. The frequency of night shifts also varies depending upon prison. Nights are worked in a seven day block and are followed by a week of rest days.

Example shift times Start time Finish time
Early shifts 7:00am






Main shifts 8:00am






Late shifts 12:00pm






All day shifts 8:00am






Night shifts 8:45pm




The salary figures quoted are for a 37 hour working week inclusive of:

  • a 17% unsocial hours working allowance
  • any additional market supplement payment that will only be paid at certain locations

37 hour base salary is £18,348.

Any changes to pay agreed after you have submitted your application will be reflected when calculating your starting pay.

National A+ – £22,060*
Aylesbury, Bullingdon, Woodhill

National A – £21,790*
Bedford, Coldingley, Cookham Wood, Elmley, Grendon, Highpoint, Huntercombe, Send, Standford Hill, Swaleside, The Mount

National B – £21,468
All other locations outside of London

Outer London A – £24,955*
Downview, Feltham, High Down

Outer London B – £24,080
Belmarsh, Isis

Inner London – £25,744
Brixton, Pentonville, Wandsworth, Wormwood Scrubs

*includes a market supplement

As an OSG, you will get:

  • two weeks’ paid training and five weeks annual leave per year
  • access to a paid Level 2 Apprenticeship in Customer Service
  • membership of a Civil Service Pension scheme
  • reward and recognition scheme
  • free access to gym and sports facilities
  • access to employee benefits and a discounts portal, including a Blue Light card

As a key role in the day-to-day management of our prison, no job is too big or too small for our Operational Support staff.

We want to recruit people who are:

  • responsible and trustworthy
  • collaborative and like to work as part of a team
  • confident, warm and welcoming
  • problem solvers, who remain calm under pressure
  • detail-orientated, and follow rules and processes closely.

To work as an OSG, you must:

  • be 18 years or over
  • have the right to work in the UK
  • ideally hold a valid driving licence (desirable)
  • have basic Maths, spelling and grammar skills
  • speak fluent English
  • be able to read the time in 24-hour format
  • have clear and legible handwriting
  • have basic IT skills, and experience using Word and email.

Please note, for roles in the High Security prisons, you must have been a resident in the UK for the last three years.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, then start your application today.

Safety and training

  • Before you begin as an OSG, you will receive two weeks’ paid training focusing on prison security and safety. This will prepare you for situations where you may have to deal with prisoners, for example, working nights or delivering mail
  • Once in post, you will have access to local training including personal protection safety training. This is designed to give you an increased understanding of keeping safe when working in a prison
  • The training you will be offered adheres to HMPPS policies and procedures. It also includes relevant health and safety and security procedures

Fully funded apprenticeships opportunity

Once you are successfully recruited as an OSG, you will be offered an exciting opportunity to complete a level 2 customer service apprenticeship (on the job learning). You will:

  1. undertake the apprenticeship alongside your new role. We will provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours to fulfil your role to the highest standard
  2. achieve a nationally recognised level 2 qualification
  3. have the opportunity to achieve level 1 functional skills in Maths and English if you do not already obtain these.

The programme will run for 14 months. Our training provider, Knowledgepool, will support you with your own skills coach throughout your learning. After starting in your prison you will be offered further information on this exciting opportunity for you to consider.

The OSG role will give you significant knowledge and experience of how a prison operates. It also provides a gateway to a wide range of other prison jobs.

Many OSG’s choose to progress to prison officer roles. Other OSG’s may choose to move into:

  • instructor roles – teaching prisoners new skills to help them find work after their release
  • waste management – working with prisoners to reduce, reuse and recycle in the prison. This may include training prisoners in core skills such as counting and recycling
  • catering – training prisoners in a range of catering skills. This may involve delivering a qualification or supervising prisoners working in the busy prison kitchens

The Making the Civil Service a Great Place to Work for Veterans initiative includes a guaranteed interview scheme to those who meet the minimum criteria to provide eligible former members of the Armed Forces with opportunities to secure rewarding jobs.

This allows veterans to continue to serve their country. It also brings highly skilled individuals with a broad range of experience into the Civil Service, which recognise and value your previous service in the Armed Forces.

The time it takes from starting your application to your first day on the job can vary. On average, please allow 4 to 6 months for the entire process to be completed. This allows time for us to conduct all interviews, background checks and issue start dates.

We will do our best to ensure the process is as quick as possible and you will be kept updated and informed at every stage of your application journey.

Stage 1: Application and short test

Tell us about yourself

Fill in your personal details on our application form; name, age and contact details.

Take a short, online test

When you apply, you will receive an email with detailed instructions on how to take our online test.

This assessment checks that you have the right natural strengths and preferences to become part of our Operational Support staff. This will take around 40 minutes to complete, but there is no time limit.

You don’t need experience completing online tests, we’re just looking for your natural ability to succeed in the role.

Before you take the assessment you will have the opportunity to practice and prepare for the real test. You will receive information and a link to access this and the actual test once you apply.

Stage 2: Interviews

If you pass the test, it’s time to meet and we’ll invite you for an interview.

The interview is the ideal opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your work history or personal experiences, so we can get to know you better, and assess how you will be suited to prison work.

In the interview, you will be asked a combination of behaviour-based and strength-based questions.

For both types of questions, we want you to give examples and go into as much detail as possible. You don’t need to have worked in a prison before to do well – you can use examples from your personal and professional experiences.

In the interview, we will also assess your ability to speak and understand English, which is a Government requirement in public-facing roles, such as this, where you will be engaging with prisoners and visitors daily.

Stage 3: Background checks

If a vacancy is available immediately, we will carry out checks including security, identity, past employment and health. This can take on average 25 working days (this may be longer if you are applying to a prison that requires a higher level of security check).

If a position is not available, because – for example – we have had too many applicants, you will be put on a merit list. When there is a vacancy for you, we will alert you and begin your background checks.

How to prepare

To prepare for the behaviour-based questions, think about what you have done in the past that could demonstrate the qualities and behaviours we are looking for in our OSG.

These are:

  • Communicating and Influencing (show that you are a ‘people’ person): You communicate clearly, concisely, and with confidence. You listen to others and adapt your communication style to suit the situation and audience
  • Working together (show that you are a team player): You develop good working relationships with others and are a positive and supportive team member
  • Managing a quality service (show that you are detail-orientated): You show excellent attention to detail and follow processes and rules. You have a strong work ethic and are willing to learn and improve
  • Delivering at pace (show that you are a quick thinker): You are highly resilient and quickly adapt to change. You are self-motivated and confident and show determination and drive to solve problems and achieve results

Try to think of a few examples you could talk about on the day.

No specific preparation is required for the strength-based questions, but you might find it helpful to think about why you would like to become an Operational Support staff, as well as personal strengths you can bring to the role. We’re interested in what motivates and energises you.

If you are finding it difficult to identify your own strengths, consider talking to family members or friends, for their opinions and ideas.

If you feel you need reasonable adjustments, we can offer you support. Inform us of this when prompted in your application form.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from everyone irrespective of background, identity, experience or circumstance, and particularly those underrepresented in our workforce. We strive for a workforce that is representative of our society and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice.

When people come to work for us we want them to feel safe and that they belong, are treated with empathy and respect, and have the support and solidarity of their colleagues and managers, so we can all deliver our services fairly and in response to individual needs. In joining us, you join an organisation which is committed to the values of humanity, openness, together and purpose.

Find out more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Life as an OSG

Hear from operational support colleagues about the role.

View jobs and apply

Find the latest OSG roles near you and apply now.

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