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29 September 2023
Police Federation equality liaison officers (ELOs) from across England and Wales gathered last week to learn and share good practice to continue providing the best support to members.
At the two-day ELO Seminar on the 19-20 September, equality reps heard from Equality Advisor Jayne Monkhouse OBE, PFEW Equality Lead Ian Saunders and PFEW in-house solicitor, Richard Benny.
PFEW ELOs are Fed reps, specially trained to support officers through equality matters, often involving complex legislation surrounding the Equality Act 2010.
A key theme that ran throughout was on the public sector equality duty, where forces have a legal responsibility to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity.
Mr Benny covered off legislation surrounding the time limits for accessing employment tribunals. There are strict time limits for making a claim to an employment tribunal. In most cases, claimants have three months minus one day from the date the problem at work happened.
Neurodiversity claims are also on the rise, according to Mr Benny, indicating forces still have significant progress to make in order to be more inclusive.
Mrs Monkhouse then moved on to the next session, outlining the correct processes in Police Regulations that forces should be following when introducing a phased return for officers following an injury, accident, illness or medical incident.
This first step is recuperative duties, which falls short of full deployment, allowing officers to adapt and prepare for a return to full duties.
Recuperative duty should be a structured, time-limited, rehabilitative process that can last up to six months, which can be extended to 12 months in exceptional circumstances.
“Too often, forces are restricting the time that officers can be on recuperative duties to 12 weeks or even eight weeks,” Mrs Monkhouse said.
Officers on recuperative duties should receive their full pay, irrespective of the hours they work.
An officer on recuperative duties should be reviewed by occupational health to determine whether and when they are capable of returning to full duties.
If they are incapable of returning to full duties, they can be put on Adjusted Duties where reasonable adjustments are made for them to continue in a role.
All officers on Adjusted Duties are likely to meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act.
A disabled person is defined under the Equality Act as someone with a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term adverse impact on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities, can be considered as disabled.
Officers on Adjusted Duties must be attending work on a regular basis and be working their full hours in a substantive role. This is subject to an annual review.
However, Ian Saunders, PFEW equality lead, said forces must continue to improve how they manage and support disabled officers.
Last year, PFEW funded 147 cases employment tribunal cases in relation to disability, which was higher than any other category.
“Police officers have been protected under the disability discrimination legislation since October 2004, meaning from that point onwards, forces needed to change the way they do business, in terms of adjusted duties, by making better choices on how they form teams and allocate jobs. But 20 years later, it’s still not happening,” explained Mr Saunders.
“What we are seeing from forces is a warehousing of disabled officers – but everyone’s needs are different. The process needs to take into account an individual’s needs, finding them a suitable home within police service with full hours in a substantive role.”
Mrs Monkhouse added: “At the moment many forces are siloing officers in particular non-operational roles and leaving them there without access to promotion or development.
“The short-sightedness from forces is dispiriting – they are routinely removing officers from operational duties and then complaining that they haven’t got enough operational officers. They simply haven’t got the adjusted duties process right.”
PFEW has fought long and hard for the rights of diverse groups in relation to the terms and conditions of police officers.
Successes include reducing the gender pay gap by negotiating the shortening of the time needed for police officers to reach the top of a pay scale and increasing the length of maternity pay for police officers.
Our leadership in this area has also benefited workers and employees in other sectors across the UK, because the PFEW-funded cases funded have often set a precedent.
Anyone who has entered the arena of an employment tribunal will be familiar with the Vento scale in relation to compensation; but few realise it relates to PC Angela Vento of West Yorkshire Police and that PFEW funded the case.
Similarly, a flexible working case which PFEW funded in support of PC Michelle Chew of Avon and Somerset Police is a landmark in UK employment law.
PC Carol Howard was able to shine a light on the Metropolitan Police’s practices in relation to her race and sex discrimination grievance because of funding from PFEW to take the matter before an employment tribunal.
“By ensuring equality issues remain at the heart of how we represent, influence and negotiate on behalf of the current and future generations of police officers, we will continue to make a real difference to their lives,” added Mr Saunders.
“Police officers are protected under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 in respect of unlawful discrimination at work because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation.
“A member who considers they may have been discriminated against on any of these grounds should contact their Federation office as a matter of urgency. Your equality liaison officer will also be able to support and advise you.”
All branch contact details can be found here.
For more resources, visit the College of Policing Diversity and Inclusion webpage.