Disabled officers face £3,000 pay cut


newslatestDisabled police officers are fighting attempts to force them to accept £3,000 less in basic salary than their non-disabled colleagues.

The suggestion came in the final report of the independent review of police pay by Tom Winsor, which was published in 2012.

Winsor recommended that so-called restricted duty officers (those “unable to discharge the full range of police duties”) should be paid £2,922 less than those who were not on restricted duty.

But the Disabled Police Association (DPA) is angry that the national Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, and the Home Office working group – which are both working on implementing the Winsor recommendations – have failed to consult those officers who would be affected by the reforms.

And the association says the federation and working-group have also failed so far to examine how forces could introduce reasonable adjustments for disabled officers as an alternative to cutting their pay.

They also say that the College of Policing, which the Home Office delegated to draw up new regulations on pay, has not yet consulted disabled people or revised its 10-year-old  guidance to forces on disability in policing.

Andy Garrett, DPA’s vice-chair, asked MPs and peers on the all-party parliamentary disability group (APPDG) this week how they could encourage the police service to value disabled police officers rather than cutting their pay.

Garrett, who also chairs the Metropolitan police’s Disability Staff Association and is the force’s disability advisor, said after the meeting that, rather than imposing lower pay, the solution was to equip disabled officers with new training in policing skills, so they could work in areas such as intelligence, or even as specialists in tackling disability hate crime.

Susan Scott-Parker, chief executive of the Business Disability Forum, has – with Garrett’s input – written a letter to chief constable Alf Hitchcock, who leads on equality, diversity and human rights (EDHR) for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), and has copied it to the EDHR lead at the College of Policing.

The letter has not yet received a response, or even an acknowledgement.

The issue affects an estimated 5-7,000 men and women – of about 130,000 officers in the UK – placed by their forces on what is called “restricted duty” because they have become ill or been injured.

Garrett said: “Generally [the force]tries to find them a back office role that it thinks they can do, often just answering the phones. Actually, DPA believes with some support they could safely do so much more.”

Garrett said the college and Home Office would only engage on the pay issue with the Police Federation, which had been shown to be “not fit for purpose” on diversity and equality issues by the Normington review.

He said: “We are working with some local federation branch boards but need to engage with the national federation and the College of Policing on these important issues, so we can put forward our proposals for enabling adjustments, but so far we have not made much progress.

“The service should be considering reasonable adjustments to enable disabled police officers to be more widely deployable, before thinking about ‘sanctions’ to their pay.

“Such a move would send all the wrong messages to disabled communities about police service commitment to protected characteristic communities.”

Ruth Bashall, director of the Stay Safe East project, which supports Deaf and disabled survivors of domestic violence and hate crime in east London, said she was “shocked at the proposal to cut pay to police officers who are not 100 per cent ‘fit for duty'”.  

She said: “In effect, the message is that disabled people literally have less value than non-disabled people if they work for a police force.

“Disabled police officers and staff are a key tool in helping the police to get things right.

“Don’t discriminate, and don’t waste the skills, personal and professional experience and knowledge of disabled officers and staff.

“That will give a clear message to the public and to potential recruits that the government and the police value diversity and want to reflect the communities they serve.”

Bashall, who attended this week’s APPDG meeting, added: “Organisations should reflect the people they serve.

“Many police officers struggle to deal with disabled people because they have so little knowledge of the reality of our lives, how to communicate with us or to support us when we are victims of crime.”

Andy Fittes, general secretary of the Police Federation, said: “The primary concern of the [Police Federation] is to look after the concerns of our members and we will continue to do so.

“The [Police Federation] opposed this amendment to pay of injured or disabled officers at the Police Arbitration Tribunal but unfortunately we lost the decision.

“We now await the draft changes to regulations and will continue to fight against the decision as any discrimination against officers on the grounds of injury or disability should not be tolerated.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The home secretary has accepted the Police Arbitration Tribunal’s recommendation on pay relating to restricted duties.

“The reforms will make the process for managing injury and illness clearer and more transparent.

“Police officers will be able to see exactly what support will be provided to them, what timescales will apply and what factors will be taken into account during the decision process.

“It is imperative that forces continue to ensure the fair treatment of officers who suffer the misfortune of becoming sick or injured.

“We are now working on these reforms in consultation with chief constables, police and crime commissioners and police staff associations.”

Detailed arrangements for implementation of the reforms are subject to further discussion by the Police Advisory Board of England and Wales.

ACPO has so far failed to comment.

12 June 2014