See job eligibility requirements: Policy Advisor

U.K. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Bristol, UK 🇬🇧

London, UK 🇬🇧

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 🇬🇧

York, UK 🇬🇧

Reference number



£30,317 – £36,606

National: £30,317 – £32,803, London: £33,827 – £36,606 For details of our pay on appointment policy, please see below under the heading ‘Salary’

Job grade

Higher Executive Officer

Contract type

Fixed Term

Length of employment

24 months

Business area

DEFRA – ERM – Floods & Water

Type of role


Working pattern

Flexible working, Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Number of jobs available



Bristol, London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York

About the job

Job summary

Defra is a welcoming, inclusive and supportive department, which plays a crucial role in achieving a better world for us all to live in. Policy advisors are responsible for turning the Government’s goals into action. We are problem solvers. We help design programmes of policy by bringing together expert advice from inside and outside the Civil Service to deliver on the Government’s promises. 

These roles are an opportunity to work at the cutting edge of public policy, in an area with a lot of public interest. They are suitable for people from a wide variety of backgrounds. While prior knowledge of the policy area is great to have, successful applicants are recruited based on their transferable skills. This may be from prior work experience (inside or outside the Civil Service), from education or from volunteering.  

More information on the Government Policy Profession can be found here:

We have several roles available within Defra’s Floods and Water Directorate. We are a friendly, high-performing, and inclusive directorate, whose work has a real impact on people’s lives and the environment. The importance of our work attracts a lot of political and public interest. Through the application process you will be able to express an interest in an area of work covered by Floods and Water (listed below) though we cannot guarantee a role in any particular team. We are recruiting for roles which are available now, as well as roles which may become available in the next 12 months.  

Job description

We are seeking a number of capable people to contribute to our policy and strategy work in Floods & Water. We value your range of skills and we do not expect applicants to have specialist knowledge of the area. These roles are a great opportunity to get your foot on the ladder of a Civil Service policy career. You will have the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, including policy development, commercial skills, and project management, among others. You will play an active role in shaping and delivering the Floods & Water priorities, working creatively and collaboratively with others to deliver excellent outcomes.  

You will need to build trusted relationships across Floods & Water Directorate, with wider Defra colleagues, other government departments and arm’s length bodies (such as the Environment Agency), and with external stakeholders, inspiring confidence and trust. You can expect frequent interaction with Ministers, Special Advisers and senior officials, including in other government departments. It’s a very exciting time to join the team and be part of supporting important policy areas.  

As a policy advisor you may have responsibility for:  

  • Briefing Ministers and senior leaders, orally and in writing  
  • Drafting responses to written correspondence  
  • Responding to Parliamentary Questions on your policy area 
  • Negotiating policy positions with other departments 
  • Helping draft consultations and official government responses 
  • Working with stakeholders and experts to design new policy interventions 
  • You may also have line management responsibilities for Executive Officers.  

Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management Team  

The Government is investing £5.2 billion over 2021-27 in flood defences in a capital programme to better protect properties across the country. A review of this programme requires new additional work at pace to identify all options to strengthen and where possible accelerate delivery, in light of the wider economic context. The review covers a wide range of aspects from contracting to approvals through to funding policy and financial incentives. Work you may be involved in includes:  

  • Generating, assessing, and formulating advice for Ministerial decisions over a short space of time, relating to specific proposals emerging from the floods programme review, including those areas listed above  
  • Programme managing all the workstreams, reporting on the work, and maintaining engagement with several external stakeholders, with the support of a team member.  
  • Developing materials for any public announcements, engaging comms and other internal and external stakeholders  

Water Services Team  

The Water Services team is responsible for ensuring that the government’s priorities for the water environment are delivered by water companies. We hold the water companies to account with regulators, set objectives and develop long-term policy for the industry. The work in this team is spread across several key areas: Water Efficiency; Drought Resilience; Economic Regulation and Company Performance; Drainage and Wastewater, Drinking and Bathing water and Water infrastructure. Work you may be involved with includes:  

  • Drought policy in preparation for summer 2023 as well as longer term water resilience work 
  • Delivery of new innovation measures to increase water supply and improve infrastructure 
  • Making sustainable drainage mandatory in new developments
  • Contributing towards the establishment and running of the delivery programme for the Plan for Water
  • Providing regular updates and advice to senior officials and ministers
  • Leading on correspondence, parliamentary questions and other ministerial and parliamentary products
  • Working with a variety of stakeholders and other government departments to deliver key policy outcomes 

Water Quality Team  

The Water Quality team is focused on making positive improvements to the quality of our waters, from addressing sources of pollution to setting national targets for improvements. We have roles in key areas of the team focused on the Water Industry, Water in Farming & Food, and Water strategy. Work you may be involved with includes:  

  • Working with regulators and other government departments to improve water companies’ environmental performance 
  • Delivering new policies and legislation to address issues associated with nutrient pollution and storm overflows 
  • Developing and delivering targets and strategies for improving water quality 
  • Representing Defra at external meetings 
  • Providing regular updates and advice to senior officials and ministers 
  • Deliver agriculture/water regulatory reform (EU Nitrates Directive) including policy development for the Environmental Land Management Scheme and agricultural pollution of protected sites.  

Person specification

We are looking for proactive and enthusiastic people who are used to working autonomously and are confident at communicating and assimilating information. Essential Skills for all roles:  

  • Experience of working confidently on various aspects of the policy and legislative cycles including supporting the delivery of key policy outcomes   
  • Experience using analysis and information to develop and assess options for decision makers, drawing on expertise from others as required  
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, 
  • Evidence of working with varied teams or colleagues to deliver common goals 
  • Good strategic judgement to identify tensions and links between different areas of work and recognise where your work fits with wider organisational objectives 
  • Excellent task management and prioritisation 
  • Ability to work at pace to deliver with competing deadlines 


We’ll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Delivering at Pace
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Seeing the Big Picture
  • Working Together

We only ask for evidence of these behaviours on your application form:

  • Delivering at Pace


  • Learning and development tailored to your role
  • An environment with flexible working options
  • A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • Civil Service pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Blended Working

Defra operates a blended working policy subject to business need, giving people the flexibility to choose when and where they work and collaborate with others.

Individuals are expected to work from one of the office locations stated in the advert to connect with their colleagues, as required by their role and business team needs.  There is flexibility to split the working week, spending minimum of 40-60% in the workplace, unless exceptional circumstances apply and/or you are a contractual home worker.

Things you need to know

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles (opens in a new window), and will assess your Behaviours, Strengths and Experience.

Application Process

As part of the application process, you will be asked to provide a CV, one behaviour statement – Delivering at Pace, and a personal statement of no more than 500 words detailing your relevant experience, linking it to the essential skills and highlighting any experience in any subject area. 
Further details around what this will entail are listed on the application form.


Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using the Personal Statement and lead behaviour, Delivering at Pace. Candidates who pass the initial sift may be progressed to a full sift or progressed straight to assessment/interview. 

If successful at application stage, you will be invited to interview where you will be assessed on experience, behaviours and strengths.

Sift and interview dates to be confirmed. The Interview will be conducted via MS Teams.


Please be aware that this role(s) will be contractually based in a Defra group workplace/office. The successful candidate is required to carry out all their duties from a UK location, and cannot do so from an overseas location at any time.

Candidates applying for these roles will be based at one of the Defra hubs as advertised.  

For information, our core Defra hub locations are:

  • York – the Kings Pool; 
  • Newcastle – Lancaster House; 
  • Bristol – Horizon House (Please note that space at this office is limited and it may not be possible for all Policy roles to be recruited to this location); 
  • London – Nobel House and 2 Marsham Street. 

Internal (core Defra) employees can apply for this role and choose to remain in their current location or to be based in one of the advertised locations.

All other applicants will be based in one of the advertised locations.

Defra continues to support a blended working model and candidates are currently expected to attend their office base for 40-60% of the week.

Travel and subsistence will not be paid for travel to a base office location.

Reserve List

A reserve list may be held for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made.

Near miss 
Candidates who are judged to be a near miss at interview may be considered for other positions in Defra which may be at a lower grade, but have a potential skills match.

Merit Lists 

Where more than one location is advertised, candidates will be posted in merit order by location. You will be asked to state your location preference on your application.


New entrants to the Civil Service are expected to start on the minimum of the pay band. The internal roles rules apply to existing Civil Servants, i.e. level transfers move on current salary or the pay range minimum, transfers on promotion move to new pay range minimum or receive 10% increase. Either case is determined by whichever is the highest.

Visa Sponsorship Statement

Please take note that Defra does not hold a UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) Skilled Worker License sponsor and are unable to sponsor any individuals for Skilled Worker Sponsorship.

Reasonable Adjustment

If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes. 

If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should: 

  • Contact Government Recruitment Service via as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.
  • Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional. 


If you are experiencing accessibility problems with any attachments on this advert, please contact the email address in the ‘Contact point for applicants’ section.

Criminal Record Check

If successful and transferring from another Government Department, a criminal record check may be carried out.

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstances some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Higher Security Clearance

All of these posts require the successful candidate to hold basic security clearance. Candidates posted to Marsham Street will be subject to a higher level of clearance because of the security requirements for that location. Security vetting will only take place after the receipt of a job offer.

Internal Fraud Database Check

Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offenses. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

A candidate is not eligible to apply for a role within the Civil Service if the application is made within a 5-year period following a dismissal for carrying out internal fraud against government.

Loan and Fixed Term Appointments 

Existing Civil Servants and applicants from accredited NDPBs are eligible to apply but will only be considered on loan basis (Civil Servants) or secondment (accredited NDPBs). Prior agreement to be released on a loan basis must be obtained before commencing the application process. In the case of Civil Servants, the terms of the loan will be agreed between the home and host department and the Civil Servant. This includes grade on return.

While many of the advertised posts are permanent, a number of the posts available are Fixed-term Appointments as  Policy Advisors in the Water Quality, Water Services, and Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management teams.

These FTA posts are not permanent. They are time limited due to a fixed funding period or as part of a specific project. The fixed term will end when the funding or the project expires. 

The details of your policy work and associated responsibilities will vary depending on the team and post which you are assigned to, however you can expect to be responsible for briefing Ministers and senior leaders, orally and in writing, drafting responses to written correspondence, responding to Parliamentary Questions on your policy area, negotiating policy positions with other departments, helping draft consultations and official government responses, working with stakeholders and experts to design new policy interventions.

This post will therefore begin from the candidate’s start date and end on 31/3/25.

Childcare Vouchers 

Any move to Defra from another employer will mean you can no longer access childcare vouchers. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.

People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with settled or pre-settled status or who apply for either status by the deadline of the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service
  • certain family members of the relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals

Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s recruitment principles (opens in a new window).

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy.

Apply and further information

This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative.

The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment (opens in new window).

Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

  • Name :Sarah Tyler
  • Email

Recruitment team :

  • Email

Further information

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, in the first instance, you should contact:
Government Recruitment Services via email:

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the Department, you can contact the Civil Service Commission: Click here to visit Civil Service Commission




IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development