Police HR chiefs have vigorously defended the service’s policies on restrictive and recuperative duties after newspaper reports claimed the system was being abused.
Figures released last week, following Freedom of Information requests, revealed the Police Service was spending £243m a year on sick pay.
An estimated 8,100 officers out of the 140,000-strong workforce are on restricted duties in England and Wales. In many cases, officers are placed on these duties when they return from long-term sick leave.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group said taxpayers were getting poor value for money and public security was being put at risk. The Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair also said it was an issue that needed to be tackled.
But Keith Watkinson, West Yorkshire Police’s director of personnel and training, said the reports “painted a very inaccurate picture”.
He told Personnel Today: “You have to put some restrictive or recuperative duties in the context of such a physical job. On average, two officers a day are injured or assaulted while on duty.”
Watkinson said police forces now had to adhere to the Disability Discrimination Act, which automatically places some officers on restrictive duties.
“Any pregnant female officers will also have their duties restricted so they are not putting themselves at any risk,” he said.
Andrew Marston, assistant chief officer (HR) at Greater Manchester Police, said the force did not permit people to work on restrictive duties for long periods of time. “However, we would rather put officers on restrictive or recuperative duties than retire them early on the grounds of ill health,” he said.
David Williams, director of personnel at West Midlands Police, said his force had a very developed occupational health function.
“Only six officers retired on the grounds of ill health last year, and only 2.5% of our workforce are on permanent restrictive duties,” Williams said.