Police Scotland accused of treating female officers “like pieces of paper”


POLICE Scotland has been accused of treating female officers like “numbers on a piece of paper”.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) says the new force has centralised requests for flexible working that used to be left to local commanders.

As a result, there has been a big increase in complaints about flexible working refusals and at least one female officer has resigned.

Police Head Quarters

Jackie Muller, national equality secretary with the SPF, which represents rank and file officers, said they were in talks with Police Scotland.

She said: “There has been an increase in concerns raised since the single force about flexible working.

“One female recently resigned having failed to come to an arrangement with the force over flexible working.”

She added: “There is a lot more layers of bureaucracy and local commanders lost their right to arrange with local officers.

“You’re just a number on a piece of paper, it’s just being done on paper and they don’t fully understand the needs of an individual.”

Ms Muller said the SPF was in the process of negotiating changes with the force.

“We will continue to review these practices to make sure they are working,” she said.

Pic Katielee Arrowsmith/Deadline News..Lothian and Boarders Police

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said: “It is important that our police force strives to properly reflect the communities it serves.

“When only 29% of police officers are women it is clear that Police Scotland has a long way to go before it can claim to do so.

“Responsible employers know the value of a diverse workforce and many are now actively striving to improve flexibility for their employees to ensure they hold on to staff.

“I would therefore be disappointed if previous working arrangements that helped women juggle their caring and work responsibilities have been ditched in the move to a national police force.

“It would be another example of how damaging police Scotland’s one-size- fits- all approach can be.”

Siobhan Freegard, founder of the UK’s biggest parenting site Netmums said: “The make-up of police needs to reflect society.

“At a time when the police are being tasked with improving diversity they choose to bring in changes which push women out.

“Women have worked incredibly hard to get taken seriously in policing – and mothers especially.

“Policing needs women and the skill set they bring, including empathy, trustworthiness and excellent communications skills.

“Police bosses need to recognise most mums won’t need flexible working arrangements forever, only when their children are young.

“It’s a price worth paying to retain valued staff with special skills they will struggle to find anywhere else.”

Police Scotland, created from eight separate forces in April 2013, has 17,244 officers – 28% of whom are female.

In April, Alex Duncan, the then chairman of the Scottish Women’s Development Forum, accused Police Scotland of denying women promotion.

The former police superintendent said removing “mobility protection” – which under the previous eight forces limited relocation within each region – meant officers with childcare and other home commitments feared promotion could force them to move anywhere in the country.

And in 2013 Scotland’s most senior female police officer admitted there were too few women in the service, with the issue now a key priority for the country’s new single force.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said more women were needed if the senior ranks were to become less male dominated.

Her comments, two weeks before the launch of Police Scotland, suggested her goal was for females to make up 50% of serving officers.

Nicky Page, Head of People Management for Police Scotland confirmed that talks were ongoing with the Federation to discuss flexible working and that a recent meeting about this was very constructive.

She said: “Our officers play a vital part in helping keep people safe in Scotland.

“We do our very best to manage the needs of our all people with the demands of Scotland-wide policing.

“We work hard with our officers to achieve this but on occasions we will not always be able to accommodate everyone’s requests. We cannot discuss individual cases.”