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Four in ten female police officers have considered quitting the service because of low morale and inflexible working practices, according to new figures.
A lack of flexible working opportunities and insufficient support for pregnant officers and returning mothers were some of the main concerns reported in a survey for the Independent Police Commission.
The results highlighted a “morale crisis” in the police service, the commission’s chair and former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens told the Observer at the weekend.
“These figures are very alarming. It may be that while addressing issues of ethnicity following the Stephen Lawrence case we have taken our eye off the ball on issues of gender,” he said.
“We cannot wait any longer. The issues behind the morale crisis need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The survey findings have been released ahead of the commission’s final report into the future of policing, which is due to be published next March.
The poll of 3,410 female officers in England and Wales revealed that 42 per cent had “given serious thought” to leaving the police – a consistent proportion across all ranks.
Just 21 per cent of those canvassed reported that they were happy with the way their force operated, while 76 per cent said they were pessimistic about the future of the service as a whole – including the possibility of privatisation and pension reform.
The survey, which was carried out by professor Jennifer Brown with the Police Federation, found that changes in shift patterns presented difficulties for more than half of the respondents.
But 18 per cent indicated that flexible working was either discouraged or “not tolerated” in their forces, while only seven per cent said flexible working was positively encouraged.
Around four in ten of those surveyed had attempted to negotiate part-time or flexible working at some point – and while 58 per cent were satisfied with the outcome, 40 per cent were only partially satisfied or dissatisfied.
There are currently more than 35,000 female officers in the police service in England and Wales, and one in ten responded to the online survey.
Of the respondents, 22 per cent worked part-time, half cared for children, and six per cent cared for an ageing parent. Some 20 per cent of the women were primary carers.
Responding to the findings, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said that forces needed to pursue the reform of pay, conditions and reward.
Chief constable Sir Peter Fahey, from Acpo, added: “Other professions such as teaching and nursing – where there is a much higher proportion of women – have adopted such a system and this has helped women to cope with the pressures of child caring and following a career.”
The Independent Police Commission was established by the Labour party last year, but is operationally independent.
Have your say...Perhaps the police force would benefit from setting up a coaching programme for women which I have seen work really effectively in another organisation. It would need support from the leaders but it could provide women with support before they go off on maternity leave, during if they request it and support once they return. The support/guidance could also be given to line managers as well so they are clear on their role in this issue. I have seen this boost retention rates and engagement in an organisation that has implemented a programme of this type. It also makes good business sense to hold onto good employees and to be an inclusive employer that everyone where everyone wants to work.
Wouldn't these statistics be more meaningful as a gender issue if the figures were available for men.