Does prison work? Topic to be debated at PFEW Conference this month
- Who may have a complaint made against them
- Who may be a witness to acts that form a complaint
- Who may be otherwise involved
- May have a complaint about the lack of equality and diversity in their treatment at work
Police Federation Representatives can help officers to resolve their complaint within the workplace by:
- Being objective and independent
- Maintaining confidentiality
- Helping officers to clarify matters and identify relevant information.
- Exploring the options available to resolve their complaint
- Seeking to manage the officer’s expectations.
- Assisting officers to achieve a resolution through their Force procedures.
- Advising on how and when to use their Force Grievance Procedure.
- In appropriate circumstances, arranging for a solicitor to advise on the possibility of taking a case to an Employment Tribunal.
Both the member and the Representative should keep a detailed diary of events relating to the complaint and should ensure that they keep each other informed on any developments.
The main purpose of any Grievance or Fairness at Work Procedure is to ensure that Officers who feel they have been unfairly treated either by management or their colleagues are given every opportunity to have their issue(s) resolved in a fair manner.
The procedure is intended to resolve officer's grievances quickly, but it is important to remember that there is no guarantee of obtaining resolution and that these procedures are not for establishing blame or providing punishment.
The Federation recognises that no one benefits from protracted disputes in the workplace and therefore believes in resolving complaints as soon as possible. In order to help this happen, officers should identify what they want to be done at an early stage so that a resolution to their grievance can be achieved. Alternative resolution strategies should be considered, as they are both practical and achievable. In the Force these resolutions can take the following forms:
- Apology: This is often hard to achieve as it means that someone has to accept that his or her behaviour caused offence.
- Policy Revision: The Force would undertake to amend their policies and/or practices and introduce a procedure for monitoring to ensure that there was no reoccurrence.
- Compensation: The Force may pay a sum in recognition of the damage or hurt caused.
- Personal Needs: It may be possible to address the personal needs of the individual complainant or the person complained of, by for example, a revised training programme, or the provision of coaching or mentoring.
- Compassionate Leave / Special Leave: It may be possible to arrange for a period of leave for either or all parties.
- Transfer: One or other party could be offered a transfer to another post, but it is important to remember that it could be unlawful victimisation to move the complainant against his or her wishes.
- Disciplinary Action: The complainant's allegations may result in the taking of disciplinary action.
- Statement: The organisation gives an undertaking in writing that, for example the officer will not suffer future victimisation or that all records of the complaint will be removed from the officer's personal file.
This is not an exhaustive list but simply suggestions of ways a complaint could be resolved quickly, confidentially and without any blame being apportioned.
Police officers are Officers of the Crown, not 'employees' in the legal sense and are not covered by all employment laws. In matters of equality and diversity they are covered and can take claims under:
- The Equal Pay Act 1970 (as amended).
- The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended).
- The Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended).
- The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999.
- The Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
- The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
These claims should be presented to an Employment Tribunal within a time limit of 3 calendar months less 1 day of the date of the last alleged discrimination (6 months in the case of an equal pay claim).
Action under equality legislation in Employment Tribunal proceedings is taken against an officer's employer (the Chief Constable or Commissioner) for failing to provide the applicant with a non-discriminatory workplace. Only when and if the Chief Constable or Commissioner makes out a defence that they did everything in their power to prevent the discriminatory treatment can action then be taken against individual officers who may have been named as Respondents.
Employment Tribunal Awards
Officers may have an expectation that they will obtain compensation by taking their complaint to an Employment Tribunal. A Tribunal can award compensation for:
- Injury to feelings
- Loss of earnings
- Aggravated damages (infrequently)
They can also make a declaration that unlawful discrimination has taken place and recommendations as to future actions, but they cannot, for example, recommend that someone be promoted or given a specific posting.
Previous annual reports of the Employment Tribunal Service identify that awards at a Tribunal can be difficult to obtain and even then can be relatively small. Fewer than 5% of discrimination claims succeed at Tribunal with the median award for race, gender, and disciplinary discrimination being around £5,000. Many successful applicants receive less than this and only a small minority receive substantial sums of money. Tribunal award against individuals names as Respondents are made rarely, and when they are, they are usually only in the hundreds, not thousands of pounds.
The Police Federation can fund an officer's case to an Employment Tribunal. Where appropriate, the Federation Representative can arrange for the Federation's solicitors to review the circumstances of the case and give a legal opinion on its merits. They can also give an opinion on the potential costs of taking the case and the potential reward. The Federation will balance this with an analysis of the benefit of the case to the officer and the Service before deciding whether to fund an applicants case.
The Federation will regularly review the funding of a case and may withdraw funding at any stage if, for example, the circumstances of the case changes so that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of success, the member refuses a reasonable offer of settlement or otherwise acts in a manner against advice of the instructed solicitors or detrimental to the interests of the Federation.
The Federation operates a procedure enabling members to appeal against legal funding decisions and has encouraged all local Joint Branch Boards to introduce a Grievance Procedure, for members who wish to raise issues of concern about their treatment or representation.