Case study: NICS – Corporate HR

Review of Legal Posts in the NICS & CSO

NICS – Corporate HR


The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) supports the Assembly, the Executive and the institutions of government, to develop and implement government policy. They employ over 23,000 permanent staff, including a large contingent of legally qualified staff.

It was clear that job weight relativities between legal roles both criminal and civil had become distorted. This had resulted in growing unease and a number of equal pay claims. To tackle this issue in a holistic way, a senior strategic oversight body comprising Heads of Legal services responsible for the provision of civil and criminal legal services across government, was set up to review the grading of all legal posts (through representative sampling) in the NICS and Crown Solicitor’s Office (CSO).

Insight & Approach

We worked closely with the Senior Oversight Board to plan, manage and undertake a comprehensive job evaluation exercise (JEGS & JESP) involving some 130 representative legal posts. This was set against a background of exacting stakeholders: from trade unions with a keen interest in protecting their members; to senior management with high expectations and staff very concerned about changes to their grading.

Work included:

  • Presentations and workshop sessions with legal staff to explain the context and process for the review
  • Interviewing 130 lawyers across all areas of legal service at all levels, up to Permanent Secretary level.
  • Compiling comprehensive job profiles for each role setting out the key job demands of each representative role subject to evaluation.
  • Agreeing the context of job profiles with role-holders and their line managers
  • Evaluating legal roles using a mix of JEGS and JESP evaluation
  • Managing a comprehensive QA process to ensure evaluation results were safe to be relied upon
  • Providing a report to the Senior Oversight Board highlighting outcomes together with an analysis of both wider organizational and job design issues which impact the job evaluation outcomes


Following publication of our report the Senior Oversight Board commissioned Beamans to compile a grading blueprint setting out the key job weight characteristics of legal roles at each core grade level together with the key differences between them (threshold criteria). The purpose of the guide was to ensure a common understanding of the job challenge characteristic of legal roles at each core grade level and more importantly, provide an analytical framework to support the future grading of legal roles.

We also supported work undertaken by Senior Oversight Board members to consider whether it would be possible to re-structure relevant parts of the legal delivery structure to minimise the impact of the grading outcomes on staff in post and develop proposals for new structures. As part of this process we also evaluated a number of new or significantly changed posts created as part of those proposals

We are proud to report that our recommendations were taken on board, and an analytical framework (grading blueprint) put in place which sets out the key characteristics and dimensions of legal roles in a published document that all staff can now access and work from. We are also proud that our report provided the catalyst to provide more equitable organisational structures to support the delivery of legal services

Thank you for your invaluable contribution to our grading review. Your professionalism, dedication to the project and willingness to go above and beyond, have all ensured it was successfully completed. Without your expert advice and support, we would not have been able to get to this significant milestone

Director of Pay & Reward, NICS

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