Defence Equipment and Support's performance management system under fire

Defence Equipment and Support's performance management system under fire

Prospect members in Defence Equipment and Support are continuing their long-running battle against the organisation’s performance management system.

The union wants to secure a move away from a guided/forced distribution of ratings based on relative performance.

In a recent ballot, 96% of members rejected DE&S’s approach to performance management. And 89.5% rejected the organisation’s approach to reward set out in the 2018 pay offer.

Pay rises are based on a combination of performance and market benchmarks.

The performance element, using relative and guided distributions, leads to unfair, potentially discriminatory ratings. Individuals don’t understand their assessments and have no idea of how to improve their position for the future.

Huge amounts of management time are spent devising ratings which damage, rather than improve, performance.

On the market benchmarks, Prospect has not seen the data and DE&S has refused to allow proper scrutiny. The union has offered an alternative, more open approach that it believes is achievable.

Prospect negotiator Aveen McHugh said: “Although we secured an additional 0.4% on the paybill increase – from 1.8% to 2.2% – and an underpin pay increase of 1% for all those appraised as moderate, we cannot recommend an offer that is based on a fundamentally flawed approach to performance management and an unfair, divisive and opaque approach to reward.”

The union’s other concerns include:

  • The majority of staff will get a below inflation, consolidated increase.
  • Paying a higher percentage for the same level of performance just because someone is in a higher grade doesn’t recognise that it is whole teams, rather than individuals, that deliver performance.
  • People are now worse off when they are promoted than they would have been under the MOD system.
  • Although the paybill increase is higher than in the Ministry of Defence, DE&S’s approach is more divisive and lacks transparency.


As part of the final offer on 2017 pay, Prospect secured a commitment to discussions on performance management – and that was a key reason why it recommended that members accept the offer.

Those discussions never took place so the union raised a formal disagreement in late 2017 – mainly around the continued used of relative assessment and guided distribution.

In March 2018, the union took the formal disagreement to the third and final stage – referral to the Permanent Secretary. To date, Prospect has still not had a formal response from the Permanent Secretary.

McHugh said: “While we were waiting for the outcome of the formal disagreement, we agreed to start pay negotiations on the understanding that we were absolutely opposed to reward based on relative assessment and guided distribution.

“We engaged fully in those discussions putting forward a number of alternatives that would provide a fairer distribution of the pay bill increase and simplify the relationship to market.”

Next steps

The formal disagreement has been parked and Prospect has received a letter from DE&S’s new chief executive giving a commitment to discussions on performance management. 

Meanwhile, DE&S has confirmed that individuals can take out a grievance on their final 2017/18 performance rating and the union is preparing guidance for members on this.