Scotland: Police Ordered To Shave Beards
Police Scotland is instituting a new clean-shaven policy for frontline officers and civilian staff so that they can use a particular type of face-fitted mask designed to protect the respiratory system.
- Police Scotland is instituting a new clean-shaven policy for frontline officers and civilian staff so that they can use a particular type of face-fitted mask designed to protect the respiratory system.1
- The respiratory protective equipment policy mandates officers and staff to wear FFP3 masks, first used during COVID, to safeguard them from hazards "such as fires, road accidents, and chemical incidents."2
- Police Scotland says the FFP3 mask requires those serving on the frontline to shave off their beards and mustaches for a secure fit. The policy is set to come into effect on May 29.3
- However, Police Scotland is reportedly working on an alternative type of respiratory protection for officers and staff who cannot shave for religious, cultural, disability, or medical reasons.4
- On Friday, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs claimed "a full human rights impact assessment is also being carried out" to the policy he deemed "absolutely necessary to protect officers and staff from serious health risks."5
- Police Scotland is the second largest police force in the UK, with around 17K officers and 6K staff, behind London's Metropolitan Police. The Metropolitan Police allows facial hair as long as it isn't "unkempt."1
Sources: 1BBC News, 2Guardian, 3The Scotsman, 4Sky News, and 5Independent.
- Narrative A, as provided by Huffington Post. Beard bans infringe on workers' rights and are an indirect form of religious discrimination, particularly against members of the Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish faiths. Evidence from COVID indicates that the FFP3 mask might fit adequately even with facial hair in place. With the pandemic growing increasingly distant and the need for officers to wear PPE in normal circumstances lessened, the decision to introduce a new clean-shaven policy is even more perplexing.
- Narrative B, as provided by Watford Observer. Frontline officers and staff should abide by the force's health and safety guidelines, and if a reasonable accommodation cannot be made, they must part with facial hair. The policy may be justified if it is required to reach a legitimate end, such as keeping the public safe, which is why jumping to a conclusion of discrimination before the policy — which contains exemptions — is implemented is unwise. It is up to employment tribunals to decide whether or not Police Scotland meets the legal standard of "proportionate means."