Derbyshire Police Federation

Kirsty features in International Women's Day interview

9 March 2021

As part of International Women’s Day, national chair John Apter spoke to Derbyshire Police Federation secretary Kirsty Bunn about her work to ensure the Force’s women officers could attend female only sessions for the Job Related Fitness Test.

Kirsty, who was equality lead and a Federation rep for 11 years before becoming secretary three years ago, was asked about her success in changing the format of the fitness test for female officers.

She explained: “I’d been aware of problems around the fitness test for a number of years after the Winsor review brought in the compulsory job-related fitness test in in 2014.

“This gained momentum and interest from myself and the issue became more prevalent in Derbyshire a few years ago when a considerable amount of older females were failing the test and this saw them put on restricted or non-operational duties by some commanders. This caused a lot of anxiety because they felt they were fit but couldn’t complete the test to show they were. I was told it was the stress on the day and that older females were more body conscious so they didn’t feel comfortable carrying out the test with other people.

“So along with the equality unit, who have been very supportive, I started a pledge to the officers that we would do what we can to give them the opportunity to do the test in a ‘safe environment’. We’ve been able to do female only fitness tests for around the last two years and I am aware that this has had a dramatic effect on the amount of females who have passed the test and therefore not been restricted, so it has had an effect on policing as a whole in Derbyshire which is positive.”

John agreed it was positive and said: “To make what some would say a small change, which is listening to female colleagues, taking on board their concerns and, it is about body consciousness, then have female only sessions and to see those pass rates improve is a no-brainer.”

He also said the criticism he had seen on social media was not helpful: “I’ve seen female colleagues talking about their anxiety, particularly some who are returning after maternity leave, and some saying they felt really unsupported and then what adds to that is the negative pressure on social media which is really hurtful, unkind and unhelpful. So it’s great that you’ve been doing that locally.”

John also asked Kirsty about the broader issue of uniform for female colleagues. She replied: “What’s right for one isn’t right for another. On the high street you get varying sizes but uniform is more standard so a lot of female colleagues were saying the trouser was not standard so a size 14 fitted some but not others.

“Some said the trousers caused discomfort, particularly women in the menopause because the material was not helping, so there were a number of issues but the solution was quite simple. We in Derbyshire now have ‘cycling trousers’ which are more combat-style so they’re more breathable with an elasticated waist and a lot of females found them a better fit and more comfortable. Initially non-SNT officers were trying to get them but we communicated with the right departments and allowed females to get the uniform that enabled them to do their role.”

She added: “No force is quick to listen and change immediately but Derbyshire has been very open on both the fitness test and uniform issues so it hasn’t been difficult to get change by speaking to the right people, the right heads of departments. I became aware that other forces were doing these things so we just kept talking about it and eventually it was taken on board by HR and the training department.”

John then asked Kirsty how she thought ‘some very outdated, culturally unacceptable working practices’ could be addressed locally and nationally.

She replied: “It’s just about having members’ voices heard. You listen to the member, find out what the issues are and raise them accordingly. Policies have sometimes been outdated but that’s because historically policing was a male-orientated organisation and it takes a while for the policies to get up to date with where we are as a community. But we get there eventually. You just have to be consistent and listen.”

International Women's Day was on Monday (8 March).

Watch the full interview.

 

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