Published: 19 Jan 2021
Police Scotland’s work to prevent sex discrimination against female officers who request flexible working arrangements has today been welcomed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, who described the progress made as “transformational” in ensuring flexible working arrangements are available to police officers, regardless of their shift patterns.
This assessment formally ends our agreement with Police Scotland which was signed in March 2019 and committed Police Scotland to take all reasonable steps to prevent sex discrimination against female officers who request flexible working arrangements within their full time hours.
The agreement was signed after we told Police Scotland that we were concerned that the findings of a discrimination case against the Chief Constable of the Police Service in Scotland weren’t fully acted on. The employment tribunal which found that Police officer Fiona Mair had been unlawfully discriminated against when she was refused permission to work flexibly was concluded in October 2017.
In preparing their programme of activities, Police Scotland worked closely with the Commission’s expert equality lawyers to develop and implement an implementation plan with a number of actions, including:
- introduce a process for monitoring requests from police officers to work flexible hours
- ensure decision makers understand the potential discriminatory impact of refusing both informal and formal requests for flexible working
- ensure police officers know they can make applications for full time flexible working and that these requests must be properly considered
The planned measures have now been evaluated against outcomes by our legal team, who are satisfied that these agreed actions have been completed in full which successfully ends this agreement.
Lynn Welsh, Head of Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, said:
“We are pleased with the progress that Police Scotland have made to ensure that police officers are able to request and access flexible working arrangements no matter their shift pattern
“We know that flexible working is most likely to be requested in order to give staff with caring responsibilities in particular the flexibility that they need to provide care for children or older people without having to leave their jobs. We also know that these requests are more likely to be made by women.
“It is encouraging to see this institution adopt progressive practices. This will have positive benefits for the Police in recruiting and retaining talented staff whose life experiences represent those of wider society.
“At the same time embracing flexible working is likely to support female officers’ progression and pay while supporting a work life balance.
“We have been heartened by the commitment and willingness to embrace change shown throughout our agreement with Police Scotland and we are glad to sign this agreement off successfully.”
Fiona Taylor, Deputy Chief Constable People and Professionalism at Police Scotland said:
“Our people are the key to the success of policing, now and in the future. Their health, safety and wellbeing is a significant priority for Police Scotland.
"Policing strives to be an exemplar for society and it is crucial that the culture of Police Scotland is welcoming and inclusive to all and that everyone is supported to thrive and flourish in what is a rewarding and demanding vocation.
“We are committed to relentless improvement and consider the findings and views of a range of partners to understand how we can better support officers and staff as they discharge their duties.
“We are better able to consider the needs of officers and staff to balance their professional and personal lives and I am grateful for the assistance and challenge of the Commission as we made these improvements.”
This announcement formally ends the agreement which was made under Section 23 of the Equality Act (2006). The agreement was scheduled to last for 16 months and required Police Scotland to implement the steps set out in a joint action plan, and report back to us on its progress.
Section 23 of the Equality Act 2006 allows us to enter into such agreements with another party. In return, we agree not to use our enforcement powers.
For further information and comment contact:
- Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland: email Vonnie Sandlan or call 07401 278778
- Police Scotland: email Paul Thornton or call 07793 732360
Notes to editors
- Section 23 of the Equality Act (2006) provides the Equality and Human Rights Commission the power to enter into a formal agreement with a person or organisation who it believes has committed an unlawful act. Find out more about our powers and the use of Section 23 agreements.
- In October 2017 an Employment Tribunal found that Ms Fiona Mair, a Police officer, had been “unjustifiably indirectly discriminated against in terms of Section 19 of the Equality Act 2010.”