Sick police officers are using annual leave to take time off for fear that reporting their illness officially will ruin their promotion prospects, senior figures have warned.
Lancashire Police Federation secretary Joe Gibbons told Personnel Today that some officers will use their overtime hours owed to take sick leave, rather than marring their absence record.
Gibbons said officers were concerned that taking too much sick leave would harm their chances of transferring to other departments or getting promoted.
“Even though they are ill, officers use overtime to take time off, rather than reporting sick,” he said. “People are worried about wanting to transfer from one department to another.”
While Gibbons stressed that his concerns were based on anecdotal feedback, they were backed up by Andy Gilbert, chair of the West Midlands Police Federation, which represents 6,000 officers at the second largest force in the country.
Gilbert said: “Anecdotally, officers are using annual leave as well as overtime to take [sick] days off. I know of one person that did so for a minor knee operation.” When asked why, Gilbert said: “When you are considered for promotion or other postings, sick record is considered.”
Both a West Midlands police spokesman and the head of HR for Lancashire Police, Ashley Judd, denied the issue was getting out of hand.
Judd said: “I would be surprised if there are many instances where an officer requests leave, or time off in lieu, as an alternative to reporting sick.” He added that sick leave rates at the force had improved recently.
A Home Office spokesman said that police forces, like many employers, took sick leave records into consideration when promoting or transferring employees, but stressed if an officer was genuinely ill, this would not harm their chances.