See job eligibility requirements: Head of Natural Science

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

Worcester, UK 🇬🇧


Worcester (with potential flexible working)

About the job


The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP)

The OEP is a new public body, being established with the principal objective of contributing to environmental protection and improving the natural environment. It will support Parliament in holding government to account on its environmental commitments and will help improve environmental governance through independent oversight and advice on environmental law and other matters relating to the natural environment.

The Interim Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will be a division within Defra, which will provide independent oversight of the government’s environmental progress on a non statutory basis, in advance of the full OEP being legally established. The Interim OEP will exist from July 2021 and will be led by the designate OEP board, chaired by Dame Glenys Stacey. Natalie Prosser will be the Interim CEO-designate. Its key functions will be as follows.

• Develop the OEP strategy including its enforcement policy.
• Produce and publish an independent assessment of progress in relation to the implementation of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
• Receive complaints about public authorities’ compliance with environmental law, entering into dialogue with specific authorities about complaints against them (while not taking any formal enforcement action pending the necessary legislative provisions taking effect).
• Determine approaches for how the OEP will form and operate, establishing its character, ways of working and voice.

The interim OEP will transition into the OEP once the OEP is legally created.

Depending on when you join us, successful candidates will either be engaged by Defra as a civil servant and subsequently transfer to the OEP or you will join the OEP directly as a public servant when the OEP is established.

The OEP will be a non-departmental public body sponsored by Defra. This means it will operate independently from Defra and will not be part of the UK Civil Service.

The natural environment is important for everyone and we aim for our teams to reflect the diversity of our society. Your personal qualities will be as important as your professional experience and applications are welcomed from all backgrounds.

Please note that in line with prevailing Government advice, staff may be working from home until Covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Job description

The OEP will be the cornerstone of our environmental governance system now we have left the EU. It will have a unique role in tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time, from climate change to biodiversity loss. Its legal team will be at the heart of its operations, working on high profile, complex legal issues at the cutting edge of environmental public law. This is an unrivalled opportunity to join the OEP as it is established and help build its legal function from the ground up, influencing how the OEP will operate in its crucial early years of existence.

The Natural Science team is part of the Insights Directorate in the OEP. The team analyses progress made in improving the natural environment in accordance with the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (currently the 25 Year Environment Plan) and targets. This is a high-profile work area. The OEP’s report is a key mechanism which will hold government to account on its environmental commitments and therefore will attract intense scrutiny and may be disputed by both government and stakeholders.

The role-holder will be accountable to the Chief Insights Officer, the senior leadership team and Board of the OEP for the team’s delivery of the natural science components of a statutory report responding to the government’s annual report on the 25 Year Environment Plan and targets. The flagship 25 Year Environment Plan sets out a blueprint to fulfil its commitment for this to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than that in which we inherited. It includes targets to improve air and water quality and the protection of many threatened plants, trees and wildlife species.

We are looking for a proactive self-starter, with excellent analytical abilities, able to work collaboratively with stakeholders to build long-lasting relationships and motivated to demonstrate how analysis can improve policy-making.

We are looking for individuals, from any background, who have the enthusiasm and flexibility to help us grow and develop this exciting new organisation. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, we would love you to get in touch.


The role holder’s responsibilities will be as follows.

• Provide the natural science expertise to objectively monitor and report on government’s implementation of its 25 Year Plan & targets, to determine progress to date and advise on ways in which progress could be improved.
• Maintain a monitoring plan and determine the extent of each monitoring assignment to match available resources. This may involve ‘light-touch’ monitoring or ‘deep dives’ into progress against specific 25 YEP goals, for example goal three: “Thriving plants and wildlife”, and topics such as the marine environment, soils and biosecurity.
• Be a strong team leader, resilient and adaptable against a complex backdrop, focused on working together to build on each other’s strengths and to flex across activities as needed to achieve our business outcomes.
• Effectively plan staff resources to ensure they are directed at those areas of the 25Year Plan that the Board has identified as OEP priorities for that reporting period. This may involve procuring external resources to complement internal staff where gaps exist or contracting-out complete assignments.
• Develop deep expertise and knowledge on natural science within the team, so that the OEP is seen as a trusted, credible source of to be able to challenge government reports and influence policy.
• Write compelling narratives and work at pace to draft high quality scientific and analytical briefings and strategic reports for the Board, ministers, senior management and decision-making committees. Ensure full understanding of any legal consequences from report publication.
• Work closely and collaboratively with senior colleagues across the OEP to identify and review and resolve strategically importance environmental issues as they emerge. Ensure strategic alignment and work planning between teams.
• Identify and report the strategic risks to the delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan. Examine the consequences of these risks and recommend mitigation options to protect the natural environment.
• Set and maintain corporate standards for collecting, analysing and reporting scientific data. Use a continuous improvement approach to development across the OEP.
• Lead the management relationship with Defra, other government departments such as BEIS and other bodies on natural science matters. In particular, close working is required with the Committee on Climate Change to avoid duplication in operational function and ensure that respective roles are complementary.
• Line management of a team, ensuring an inclusive team and that people are developed and grown so that they develop their careers while delivering for the OEP. Encourage innovation and capture ideas for development.

The above list of job duties is not exhaustive and the post holder will be required to undertake such tasks as may reasonably be expected within the scope and grading of the post.


• 2.1 degree or a postgraduate qualification in a natural science discipline.

Essential Experience

• At least 2 years’ experience of applying natural science – particularly biodiversity/ecology/ecosystems in a policy or consultancy context.
• Experience of independently drafting technical reports to a publication standard at pace – developing influential policy recommendations and clearly communicating complex concepts.

Essential Skills

• A deep specialist and broad understanding of natural science, in particular biodiversity, with experience of applying this expertise to solve complex policy issues.

• Excellent team leadership skills – ability to build high performing teams, set clear strategic direction, balance conflicting demands and shape work programmes and priorities for the team, even when details are unclear.

• Flexible and adaptable mindset, able to work /direct the team’s work across a wide range of projects and change direction quickly in response to changing demands.

• Ability to deliver high quality analysis and insights on natural science issues at pace, and articulate this in a clear and compelling manner

• Ability to think and operate strategically, ensuring plans and activities reflect the broader political, economic, legal and social context.

• Ability to pro-actively develop and manage relationships with a broad range of internal and external stakeholders particularly those that are high profile and at a senior/ executive level.


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

  • Leadership
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Managing a Quality Service
  • Communicating and Influencing


• Flexible working to allow for variations in your hours from day to day, suiting your needs, and where this is compatible with business needs.
• Generous Annual Leave allowance.
• An Employee Assistance Programme providing free and confidential 24/7 telephone advice service to staff.
• An Occupational Health Service (OHS) to provide a range of support services to help with the way you feel at work.
• Outstanding Learning and Development support including paid study leave.
• Salary Sacrifice Schemes such as Cycle to Work and Charitable Giving.
• Season Ticket and Rental Deposit Loans.
• Access to a huge range of retail discounts and offers through an employee discount portal.

Things you need to know


Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.People working with government assets must complete basic personnel security standard checks.

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles, and will assess your Behaviours and Experience.Application Process
As part of your application you will be required to complete a CV setting out your work history, along with a 750 word statement of suitability providing examples of how you meet the essential experience and skills required for the role and 250 words on each of the four behaviours.


In the event of a high number of applications there may be a pre-sift on the CV/personal statement and the lead behaviour, Leadership.

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

There may also be a presentation at interview. Further details will be provided to candidates who successfully pass the sift stage. Presentation topic to be emailed 1 hour in advance – it will be on a technical natural science related issue.

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

New entrants are expected to start on the minimum of the pay band.

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 do the following.

– Contact Government Recruitment Service via [email protected] 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 maybe 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 recognize in exceptional circumstance 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 [email protected] stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

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 offences. 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.

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

We are closely monitoring the situation with regard to Coronavirus, and will be following central Government advice as it is issued. There is therefore a risk that recruitment to this post may be subject to change at short notice. Please continue to follow the application process as normal and ensure that you check your emails regularly for any updates from us as this is how we will communicate with you.

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

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)
  • 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

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code 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.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.

Apply and further information

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 : OEP Recruitment Team
Email : [email protected]
Recruitment team :
Email : [email protected]

Further information

Complaints: 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: [email protected] 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


UPDATED Head of Natural Science Candidate Pack Opens in new window(pdf, 9MB)