Foreign and Commonwealth Office Reviews | Glassdoor

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Reviews

Updated June 6, 2017
121 reviews

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3.3
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Foreign and Commonwealth Office Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
3 Ratings

121 Employee Reviews

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Pros
Cons
  • locally engaged staff work excessively as compared to expatriate (in 9 reviews)

  • Salary not good especially for locally engaged staff with respect to expatriate even though mostly locally (in 8 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (1)

    "Review of Foreign Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - N/A in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - N/A in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Great work life balance and great for entry level positions.

    Cons

    The pay is not relative to the job market in the metro area.

    Advice to Management

    Update pay scale so that it is competitive with the job market in the area.


  2. Helpful (3)

    "British Embassy Washington DC - Great introduction, learn all you can then get out fast!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Policy Specialist in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Senior Policy Specialist in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Generally a good work life balance. Relatively interesting projects which are often diverse - a great opportunity for a recent grad to gain experience, knowledge and network within greater DC policy community. Looks good on the resume and can lead to similar, but better paying jobs with added responsibility.

    Cons

    Lots of grunt work for Locally Employed Staff with well below market wages (guessing around 50% below) and shrinking benefits due to austerity measures and Brexit pressures. As a consequence, local staff is a mixed bag of talent - some are talented, ambitious, etc, while others seem to use the job as a stop gap while they look for better.

    Absolutely no learning and development opportunities and with very high turnover, there are few people to turn to for example and mentorship. In addition, high-turn over ~30+% will leave you in constant stress as projects fall behind, problems with knowledge retention arise and overall business continuity... stops. Add to that absolutely no room for career advancement given the very small teams you'll work in and the poor dynamics between locally employed and career diplomats and the high turn over becomes quite understandable.

    Most people stay about a 1-2 or 3 years, before moving onto to better opportunities. Also, as one user indicated, there is also obvious favoritism toward the Brits. They get all the perks, high-profile projects, and security clearances. There is a complete disconnect - a lack of understanding between career diplomats and local staff. I will also say that for a Brit on a diplomatic assignment, the Washington DC embassy is sometimes more of a vacation, possibly even their final posting before retirement. Don't expect mentors; don't expect managers to take interest in your work and career goals!

    Advise to young and idealistic employees/candidates: Brexit outlook will likely lead to cuts here. Do not expect job security going forward. Do not expect to make a massive contribution or "change the world". Things happen at snail pace here or not at all. Keep your head down, use diversity to your advantage and get as many projects under your belt as you can all the while looking for your next career move. This can still be a good steeping stone into a number of policy careers. Good luck!

    Advice to Management

    Invest in your people! Pay a real living wage, provide better benefits including opportunities for learning and development. At best, current practices will yield high turn-over with business interruption, and problems with knowledge retention. At worst, they may give rise to security breaches (Embassy personnel are prime recruitment targets for espionage)!


  3. "Working for the FCO"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time

    Pros

    Flexibility on working shedules. Good annual leave days!!!!

    Cons

    Low salaries comparing to market outside!


  4. "Finance Officer"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Finance Officer in Airport Road, WY
    Former Employee - Finance Officer in Airport Road, WY
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Stable, lots of training opportunities, reasonable working hours

    Cons

    little to no salary increment, no career growth


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Poor wages and benefits, No career advancement"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Locally Employed Staff, Administrative Role in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Locally Employed Staff, Administrative Role in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Less than a year)

    Pros

    It's a fun to place to work. The culture is laid back and the people are friendly. The workload is balanced because you cannot work overtime. This place is fine if you need a job, but it's not a place for career advancement. It's not a terribly demanding place to work. Most of the Brits view this as a vacation and are always faffing about.

    Cons

    Very low (poverty) wages and not enough to survive in DC. The organization is well aware of this but will not increase salaries due to austerity measures. They are now starting to slash benefits, as well. If you are locally employed you have to pay your own taxes on a quarterly basis as the British Gov't cannot take out taxes on our behalf. It is a bloody nightmare, to say the least. They do NOT provide any tax assistance or help, either. Employee turn over is at 20%. It's a revolving door. There is also no growth opportunity. They hire locals for lower level clerical jobs with no option for career growth or advancement. Most people stay about a year or so before moving onto to better opportunities.There is also obvious favoritism toward the Brits. They get all the perks.

    Advice to Management

    Pay your employees a living wage and provide us the same benefits that our other American counter parts receive. You cannot expect to recruit good talent if you cannot pay proper wages in this market.


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Benefits are okay, management is not great"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time

    Pros

    The culture is really interesting and ever-changing, due to the turnover of civil servants and military. The benefits are pretty competitive (good 401(k) match, sick pay, okay vacation, extra holidays). Depending on the department the work/life balance can be really good and hours are flexible (although sometimes you get a manager who will scrutinize your output and timesheet). The location in Washington is on Embassy Row, and there is free parking (most days) and a cafeteria. Every once in a while you are offered the opportunity to rub elbows with a celebrity.

    Cons

    Salaries are not competitive at all (well below market). The UK government is always looking for cost savings, and trying to do more with less. This means more work and responsibility on people who remain after any kind of reorganization or vacancy yet there is no compensation for this. Sometimes they will hire someone to fill a post with little or no experience (or just incompetent) because of the horrible salary, which puts more pressure on the adjacent employees to accomplish anything. Annual increase is dependent on budgets in London. Bonuses (very low) are also dependent on this, and favoritism plays a large part. Salary groups/reference points do not adjust with the market and are reviewed sporadically (could be years). There is rarely an opportunity to move up in the organization. US residents have to pay quarterly taxes, and although compensated for the employer portion must be very good at managing money to handle this.

    Advice to Management

    Figure out how to make your local staff feel valued. The loss of corporate knowledge can be costly, as we watch you make the same mistakes over and over again, and you lose good, hard working people.


  7. Helpful (6)

    "If you really do want to work here, stay for 2 years max."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Foreign and Commonwealth Office full-time

    Pros

    - Awesome opportunities / exposure it'd be hard to find anywhere else.
    - Some truly great coworkers
    - Work is interesting at first, while you're still learning the ropes
    - Access to L&D

    Cons

    I hate to say it, but I agree with many of the previous reviewers on this page:

    - No room for development or career progression
    - Staff totally demotivated and beaten down - it's actually very sad
    - Zero increase on your low starting salary (virtually)
    - Salaries are much lower than market rate and non-negotiable
    - Tax for US employees is brutal (you file as self-employed)
    - Huge pressure to hit targets but no incentive / reward schemes or thanks for it
    - Year-end bonuses are very small and very hard to get
    - Targets change at random throughout the year according to HQ's whims
    - UKTI is an organization trying to do everything, and doing nothing properly
    - Awful and ungrateful management - have either been there for too long or are sent over from London and don't know what they're doing until it's time for them to leave again
    - High staff turnover - management know this is a long-term issue and don't care

    Advice to Management

    Please look after your staff. People who work here are not motivated by money but the total lack of respect and appreciation shown to them means that the goodwill they were running on eventually evaporates and they leave.


  8. "Press and Public Affairs Intern"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Press and Public Affairs in Houston, TX
    Former Employee - Press and Public Affairs in Houston, TX
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I worked at Foreign and Commonwealth Office (More than a year)

    Pros

    AMAZING community, great staff that's truly dedicated to their work. Never a boring day in the office, especially given that everyone there cares so much for each other. Really felt at home working there. The work is challenging and super interesting, I highly encourage for anyone who wants a fast paced, challenging work environment.

    Cons

    As a product of working in government, you won't have a glamorous salary.


  9. "Good Opportunities"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Lafayette, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Lafayette, CA
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Foreign and Commonwealth Office (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    Flexible and a diverse mix of people and backgrounds. The opportunities and training were great!

    Cons

    Not the best pay, but I do understand it's civil service. The atmosphere changes depending on the party in power.


  10. Helpful (2)

    "Consular Passport Team"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

    Pros

    Convivial team, management happy to allow flexible working hours within reason and interesting talks/presentations offered as part of employment with embassy.

    Cons

    Work was often quite repetitive and priority was fulfilling daily quota of applications which left little room to improve systems or lean new skills despite efforts by management to provide learning and development opportunities

    Advice to Management

    Team since moved back to UK


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