Principal Lawyer

Office for Environmental Protection

Principal Lawyer

Reference number: 278793

Salary: £49,403 - £55,987

National: £49,403 - £55,987

Grade 7

Contract type: Permanent

Fixed Term: Secondment

Working pattern: Flexible working, Full-time, Job share, Part-time


Job summary

The Office for Environment Protection (OEP) legal team operates at the centre of the UK’s new system for environmental governance. We work on some of the most stimulating legal matters, tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time, from climate change to biodiversity loss. If this sounds like what you want from your legal career, we’d like to hear from you.

Created by the Environment Act 2021, the OEP’s principal objective is to protect and improve the environment. We do this by holding the government and other public bodies to account in several ways including:

  • Reporting on progress against England’s and Northern Ireland’s environmental improvement plans and targets
  • Advising government on proposed changes to environmental laws and other matters
  • reporting to Parliament/the Northern Ireland Assembly about the implementation of Environmental law, and
  • Investigating suspected failures by public authorities to comply with environmental law and, where necessary, taking enforcement action.

The OEP’s legal team plays a crucial role in delivering every aspect of this work.

To find out more about the OEP, what we do, who we are and our current work, visit The OEP Website.

The roles are based in the OEP’s General Counsel directorate, alongside, currently, five other principal lawyers and a paralegal. The roles will be line managed by one of the Grade 6 lawyers in the team (currently our Head of Litigation and Casework or the Head of Environmental Law), but successful candidates would work closely with all our heads of function and with the General Counsel.

With a total staff across the OEP of just over 70, we are a small, dynamic, friendly and flexible organisation covering England, Northern Ireland, and environmental matters reserved to the UK Government. We offer flexible working arrangements, high profile, dynamic work and the chance to have an impact on improving the state of the environment.

The OEP is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which means it operates independently from Defra and is not part of the UK Civil Service. Our employees are public servants.

Job description

The legal team provides legal and governance support to all OEP functions and decision making. We work in a flexible way, with lawyers acting across the full range of the OEP’s functions.

Each of our lawyers can therefore expect opportunities to work on:

  • Delivering legal advice, research and analysis in connection with the implementation of environmental laws
  • Preparing advice to government on proposed changes to environmental law and other matters
  • Producing reports for Parliament/the Northern Ireland Assembly on the implementation of environmental law
  • Supporting our complaints team to receive in, validate and analyse allegations of public authority failures to comply with environmental law
  • Undertaking investigations casework, where necessary, through to enforcement action via judicial review and our bespoke litigation process; environmental review, and
  • Supporting colleagues across the OEP’s other business activities, such as on corporate and governance issues.

The team also acts as the OEP’s legal centre of excellence, providing training and guidance to non-technical staff to develop wider legal capacity of the organisation as a whole.

The above list of job duties is not exclusive or 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.

The OEP offers a generous defined benefit, inflation-proof Civil Service Pension which is a valuable part of your total reward package. Upon joining the OEP, staff can opt to join the Civil Service Pension Scheme which, depending on salary, offers a personal contribution rate of between 4.6% and 7.35%, and an employer contribution rate of between 26.6% and 30.3%. There is also the option to join a partnership scheme. Full details and benefits of the options available to you can be found on the Civil Service Pension Portal.

The OEP is supportive of flexible working and has a flexible working policy to allow for variations in individuals working hours where this is compatible with business need.

Staff Wellbeing

Staff wellbeing is extremely important and the OEP strives to provide access to numerous resources to aid the wellbeing of its employees. Current initiatives include:

  • Access to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) providing free and confidential 24/7 telephone advice and guidance to support employees with both personal and employment issues. This may include personal wellbeing, career development or legal matters such as landlord/tenant disputes.
  • Access to an Occupational Health Service to provide a range of support service to help with the way you feel at work.
  • Access to trained Mental Health First Aiders and wider Defra Group mental health first aid network and resources.
  • Free access to Headspace, a mindfulness, meditation and sleep app.
  • Access to a Financial Wellbeing Portal.
  • Free eye tests and a contribution to glasses/lenses if required for VDU use.
  • Salary Sacrifice, Discounts and SmartTech Benefits.

All employees have access to the STaR, Reward Gateway an online platform providing access to hundreds of discounts, offers and cashback options with well-known retailers. They offer a SmartTech scheme, a Cash Heathcare plan and numerous other benefits and services.

The OEP uses the Civil Service Success Profile framework which is made up of five elements: Behaviours, Strengths, Ability, Experience and Technical. It is strongly recommend you have a look at the Success Profiles to enable you to make the best application possible. When writing behaviours at application stage or presenting behaviours in interview, the OEP recommends you use the STAR format to present your answers (Situation, Task, Action, Result).   

As part of the application process, you will be asked to complete a CV and a 1000-word Personal Statement detailing how you meet the person specification and essential criteria.

The personal statement is a very important part of your application. Review the person specification on the job description and outline how you meet it providing specific and relevant examples. These could be from work, volunteering, training or education.

Further details are provided on the application form.


If successful at application stage, you will be invited to an interview where you will be assessed on the elements outlined in the advert.

Prior to interview or at interview, you may be required to complete an additional exercise or deliver a presentation. If this is required details will be sent alongside your invite to interview.

Interviews will be held in-person at the Worcester office. Travel and subsistence costs will not be reimbursed for candidates travelling to interview.


All appointments will be made in merit order based on the candidates specified contractual preference.

Candidates will be required to show proof of qualifications at or following interview.


These roles are based in Worcester and all permanent and fixed term appointment candidates will be contractually based at the Worcester office.

The OEP supports a blended working model and will support a combination of office and home working which will be dependent on business need and individual circumstances. Worcester based employees are expected to attend the office in Worcester for 40-60% of the week. If Worcester based, travel and subsistence will not be paid for travel to the office.

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

Contact the OEP at [email protected] as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.

Criminal Record Check

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service or Access NI 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

[email protected] stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Contact point for applicants

Name: OEP Recruitment

Email: [email protected]

Recruitment team

Email: [email protected]



Closing date: Apply before 11:55 pm on Sunday 30 April 2023.

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