Scotland

Police Scotland to tackle sexism after hours tribunal

Police passing out parade Image copyright PA

Police Scotland has committed to preventing sex discrimination after a female officer took them to a tribunal over flexible working hours.

The force has come to an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who were concerned it was in breach of equality laws.

It followed the case of Fiona Mair, an officer and mother who wanted to work full time but on a flexible basis.

Police Scotland said it wanted to ensure workers had a work-life balance.

On Thursday, the force announced it had signed an agreement which will last for 16 months.

During that time the force will implement the steps set out in the joint action plan, and report back to the EHRC on its progress.

'Mainstreaming equality'

This includes ensuring that any applications for flexible working hours are monitored to prevent discrimination and that staff making decisions are aware of any implications of their rulings.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor, lead for professionalism at Police Scotland, said: "Our officers and staff are our greatest asset and as an organisation we are committed to ensuring that we support our workforce to achieve a work life balance.

"The policing family is diverse, as are the needs of all those who work for us. Police Scotland is committed to balancing the needs of our people while ensuring that we continue to effectively police Scotland and keep people safe.

"Signing this agreement with the EHRC signals our ongoing commitment to supporting our officers and staff and to mainstreaming equality in our day-to-day decision making."

Ms Mair initially requested flexible hours so she could look after her child.

However, Police Scotland refused because divisional practice was that officers should start and finish within core hours.

Single parent discrimination

In October 2017 an employment tribunal found in her favour, saying her employer had unjustifiably discriminated against her on the grounds of her sex, under section 19 of the Equality Act 2010.

Officials said Police Scotland had applied a rule which disproportionately affects single parents - the majority of whom in Scotland are women.

The hearing concluded: "We found the respondent's decision to be disproportionate.

"This was a relatively minor adjustment to make to accommodate the claimant's needs as a single parent, given the resources of the respondent.

"The respondents could have made a slight adjustment which would have pertained for only a limited period of time, and retained a long-serving police officer."

Ms Mair resigned following the tribunal's outcome.

Despite this, the EHRC then notified Police Scotland that the findings of the tribunal had not been fully acted on.

Lynn Welsh, Head of Legal, EHRC Scotland, said: "Flexible working is intended to give carers in particular the flexibility that they need to provide care for children or older people without having to leave their jobs.

"We are heartened that Police Scotland have now recognised that not supporting flexible working could impact on female officer's progression and pay."

More on this story