Police Arbitration Tribunal: comment from the DPA

Andy Garrett, DPA Vice-Chair comments on the Police Arbitration Tribunal & Home Secretary decisions on the ‘X-factor’ deployability element of pay

We note with dismay there is no reference in the PAT judgement, Home Secretary letter and subsequent circulars from Federation to the employers Equality Act (impact assessment & reasonable adjustment) duties in cases of protected characteristic (disabled) officers on restricted duty – i.e. exploring avenues of reasonable alternative deployment & re-training to enable their wider ‘deployability’ before moving to reduce pay.

We believe that this change in regulations would amount to a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) which places disabled officers at a substantial disadvantage to non-disabled officers. We believe the employer would have to either:

Make reasonable adjustments in order to eliminate or mitigate the disadvantage – OR – Objectively justify on a case by case basis the PCP as a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. 

Reasonable adjustments should be explored first, such as interventions aimed at enabling the disabled person to do their job, or if not possible, a reasonable alternative job. –  That is the job of a ‘deployable’ police officer whatever that is determined as.   

As seen in other equality act tribunal judgements, (such as the recent ruling in which A19 as used in those forces, amounting to indirect age discrimination), forces would be opening unnecessary legal challenge in cases where decision makers (line managers) are permitted to jump to punitive sanction in disability cases (UPP or pay cut), before fully exploring reasonable alternatives or adjustments aimed at enabling/supporting the officer to reach the required standard (of deployability).

It is not in the spirit of engagement where “in-Force” communications on such emotive topics are prepared & published without proper consultation with disabled officers (through disability staff networks) as to wording & content.

In terms of national guidance, we continue to lobby and encourage the College of Policing to fully consider reasonable adjustments which would enable wider ‘deployability’ & support for disabled officers to reach a position where they meet whatever criteria comes into in the deployability assessment

The Disabled Police Association is further dismayed at the lack of stated commitment in communications on this subject to consult and engage directly with disabled/restricted officers, especially at this time when the federation position is weakened. This is particularly evidenced in the equality & diversity section of the Royal Society of Arts review of Police Federation of England and Wales. We will vigorously challenge the robustness of consultation on this topic if it takes place about us, without involving us in some way. Disabled people are too often left with the impression that non-disabled people in influential positions feel they know what is right for us and can talk on our behalf,.

If the police service cannot value, support and creatively enable their own to contribute fully and effectively in the ways they can, to execute the office of constable, how can we aspire to reflect the diversity of our UK population?

Or is the Police Service going to continue limiting overt commitment only to visible diversity?

We would remind colleagues that should they experience any inappropriate management or colleague behaviour referencing this emerging new assessment and reform to officer pay, they should take steps to secure hard evidence of it (inappropriate behaviour & assumptions) and be further reminded of their entitlement to make use of the in-Force formal grievance process in writing, or other legal remedy seeking to address evidence of unfair, inappropriate or discriminatory treatment.

Local Disability Network representatives will always work towards engagement and resolution in disputes within the resources available to them, but would rather colleagues didn’t make ill-informed assumptions, judgements & actions which could give rise to formal process.

Let us focus on helping people do the job and not punish them for becoming (not by choice) a member of the 1 in 6 people who will become disabled during working life.

The Disabled Police Association is doing everything it can to work with the Police Federation and police employers to support effective discharge of their statutory functions and equality obligations.