2 x SSO Scientist

Bristol, London, York
£35,894 - £43,847
14 Oct 2020
19 Oct 2020
Contract Type
Full Time

2 x SSO Scientist: REACH/Chemicals Framework and Pesticides

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

 About the job

It has never been a more exciting time to join the Defra group, which is responsible for the environment, the countryside and the rural economy. Defra’s diverse teams deal with a vast range of issues that profoundly affect people’s day to day life from the food we eat, to the air we breathe and the water we drink.?

The objective for the Defra Environmental Quality Directorate is to improve and protect health and the environment by improving air quality, managing noise, promoting resource efficiency, and managing risks from chemicals, to support our objective to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.

At the end of the transition period, the UK will be making independent policy on chemicals, pesticides and hazardous waste. To enable this, each of the post-holders will support this work in one of two areas:

Under the new, independent chemicals regulation regime, UK REACH, the Secretary of State will make regulatory decisions. The post-holder’s role will be to use their experience and understanding of chemicals, pesticides and hazardous waste, assessing the risks they could pose to human health and the environment to ensure that the Secretary of State makes these decisions based on the very best advice.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be the UK regulator for Pesticides. There is scope for UK regulation to make independent decisions from those of the EU over time, and the post-holder for pesticides will be responsible for ensuring that Defra policy makers and ministers are fully informed about the risks and benefits of decisions they make on pesticides.

We are looking for specialists with demonstrable experience producing and/or understanding and using chemicals risk assessments and communicating this information to a non-specialist audience in order to support science-based decision-making. Specific experience in managing the risks of chemicals would be valuable for the role supporting chemicals regulation policy and science related to pesticide risks or efficacy would be valuable for the role supporting policy on PPPs.

The post-holders will be integrated within chemicals and pesticides policy hubs (as appropriate), but we will ensure that they have strong support from the scientist profession within the Division and Defra more widely, through peer learning, mentoring and coaching as well as access to a wide range of material and professional advice to support them in their roles. Job description

Did you know that 350,000 chemicals exist on the market globally? By 2030, the global industry will double. Chemicals benefit society but the pace of innovation can exceed understanding of their potentially harmful effects to humans and the environment, which may require regulatory or other interventions. Chemical pollution is also one of the top five drivers of biodiversity loss.

The UK has not set out its overall approach to chemical management for over 20 years. Nor has the UK needed to deliver regulatory decisions across a number of regimes at the scale and complexity we must now take forward post transition period.

Our overall ambition is to ensure “chemicals are safely used and managed, and that the levels of harmful chemicals entering the environment are significantly reduced”. This is a 25 Year Environment Plan commitment (published Jan 2018). Following the end of the Transition Period, we must deliver the outcome of ensuring UK standards in the environment are protected, and trade systems influenced to support higher standards and sustainability. This means delivering significant policy and regulatory functions that have been repatriated from the EU.

The post-holder(s) will be selected to be part of either the chemicals or pesticides policy teams and your responsibilities will vary accordingly. The post-holders will support these teams in developing policy by providing scientific insights. Some of your day-to-day activities will include, but are not limited to:

• Working within CPHW’s Chemicals framework, chemicals and pesticides strategy and other relevant related regulations as appropriate.
• Understanding the chemicals and pesticides issues that pose the most significant risk to human health & the environment and to provide insights that will help to understand the best risk management route for individual cases.
• Providing scientific insights into reviews for potential changes to the UK REACH, chemicals, pesticides, POPs, (waste and others) frameworks.
• Supporting our attendance at international meetings, such as the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention and the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), providing advice to inform our negotiating positions and interpreting associated complex information.
• Providing scientific support to help understand, use and communicate the scientific opinions developed by the [future] UK REACH regulatory Agency and/or PPPs regulator to inform policy decisions.
• Providing scientific support for horizon scanning of risks posed by chemicals and pesticides, and consideration of appropriate future risk management activities in chemicals and pesticides regulation.
• Commissioning new research and managing contracts.
• Providing detailed analysis, interpretation and reporting of often complex scientific information.
• Collaborating with other scientists and policy officials within the wider Chemicals, Pesticides and Hazardous Waste team, Defra and other government agencies.
• Briefing Ministers and senior officials.
• Planning and prioritising effectively to deliver results.
• Work on other scientific projects as the need arises.

You may also have line manager responsibilities.

New joiners can expect full support from the Scientist Profession, including in their career development, through peer learning, mentoring and coaching as well as access to a wide range of material and professional advice to support them in their roles.

The posts offer some flexibility to be based outside of London, but the post holder is likely to be required to travel to London regularly, and may need to be able to attend meetings at short notice.

All of these posts require the successful candidate to hold basic security clearance. Candidates posted to London will be subject to a higher level of clearance because of the security requirements for that location. Job offers to these posts are made on the basis of merit. Security vetting will only take place after the receipt of job offer.


Essential Experience:

• Experience of working in a regulatory role.
• Broad understanding of how chemicals and/or pesticides are used industrially or by consumers/population.
• The ability to assess the risks posed by chemicals and pesticides to human health and the environment.
• Excellent analytical skills and the ability to work across a multidisciplinary team.
• Evidence of analytical thinking to make recommendations on complex issues.
• The ability to proactively produce high-quality and policy-relevant analysis and to communicate analysis to all audiences, often to tight timescales.
• Sound working knowledge of the REACH Regulation and/or PPPs regulation.
• Experience in one or more of the following areas: chemicals, pesticides, hazardous waste.
• Experience of working in a relevant field.
• Project management experience.


An undergraduate degree in a science or analytical subject (such as chemistry, biochemistry, biology or environmental science) or equivalent experience is required.


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

  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Seeing the Big Picture
  • Delivering at Pace

Technical skills

We'll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Building and applying knowledge.
  • Communicating science for government.


A career in the Civil Service is like no other. If you’re looking to join a great team and develop your career with us, then the Civil Service is the place for you! You might be wondering, “what’s in it for me”? Take a look below at some of the benefits available to you as a civil servant in Defra.

A working environment that supports a range of flexible working options.

A civil service pension.

A working culture which encourages inclusion and diversity.

Defra is committed to taking positive action on diversity through recruitment, and actively encourage applications from as diverse a group of candidates as possible. We are particularly interested in applicants from communities such as BAME, LGBTQ+, veterans, disabled and ex-offenders, for example. The delivery challenges Defra faces are great, and we know that as a team and department we will only succeed by bringing a diverse set of views and backgrounds together. We are wholly committed to the Civil Service principles of diversity and equality of opportunity and will recruit through a fair, open and unbiased competition.

Access to learning and development?tailored to your role.

Everyone in Defra is supported to develop their skills and capabilities. When you join the Environmental Quality (EQ) Directorate you will be welcomed into your new team through an induction programme that will provide you with helpful information on the civil service, Defra, our work and our policies. Your line manager will also work with you to establish your priorities for the fiscal year, developing a performance, learning and development plan tailored to you and your role, while also working with you to connect you with a civil service mentor to help empower you in your new role with the opportunity to benefit from paid for coaching.???

Most importantly, we’re keen to invest in you!?EQ ensures?that each employee?has clear?learning and development opportunities?funded through?the financial?year.??As a civil servant, you will also have access to Civil Service Learning where you can participate in professional development programmes across a wide spectrum of subjects and professions.

Things you need to know Security

Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.

Successful candidates must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed is counter-terrorist 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, Strengths, Experience and Technical skills.

Application process
After submission of the first stage of your application, you will be invited to complete a Verbal Reasoning. If you successfully pass the test, you will be invited to complete the second stage of the application.

Please complete the online tests as soon as possible (within 24-48 hours is recommended), the closing date for the tests is 23:55 on 19th October. If you fail to complete the online test before the deadline your application will be withdrawn. Guidance for the test will be available when you are invited to take the test. The tests are administered online and accessed via the CS Jobs website.

As part of the application process, you will be asked to complete 250-word statements on each of the following four Behaviours – (1) Making Effective Decisions; (2) Communicating and Influencing; (3) Seeing the Big Picture, and (4) Delivering at Pace.

As part of the application process, you will also be asked to complete a CV. The CV will ask for your Job History, Qualifications and Past Skills and Experience.

Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using the lead behaviour, Making Effective Decisions>. Candidates who pass the initial sift may be progressed to a full sift, or progressed straight to assessment/interview.

Sift is likely to take place in mid to late October with interviews early to mid-November.

All candidates invited to interview will be required to give a short 5-minute verbal presentation. The topic will be provided prior to interview.

The interviews will be Behaviour, Experience and Strength-based and may also include a technical element.

**Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, we will not be interviewing face-to-face at this time. All interviews will be conducted remotely via video call. Further information will be provided to candidates in advance of interviews.**

Reserve list
We have a number of opportunities coming up across EQ and Defra. Candidates who pass the interview criteria but are not offered a post will be kept on a reserve list for 12 months and may be offered similar roles elsewhere.

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

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 defrarecruitment.grs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk 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.

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 recognise 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 Pre-Employment.Checks@cabinetoffice.gov.uk stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Childcare Vouchers
Any move to Defra will mean you will no longer be able to carry on claiming childcare vouchers. You will however have access to the governments Tax Free Childcare scheme.

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.

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

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: defrarecruitment.grs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

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

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

Open to UK, Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) and certain non EEA nationals. Further information on whether you are able to apply is available here.

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.