“EXHAUSTED officers are giving it their all, but something has to be done to redress the balance. Officers are being run ragged and their health, family and social lives are suffering as a result.”
That was the reaction of PFEW Vice-Chair Ché Donald to research that showed police forces in England, Wales and Scotland owed their officers more than 481,419 rest days – the equivalent of 1,319 years.
The report in Police Oracle was based on a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request. As only 26 forces provided figures, the true number of owed rest days will be even higher.
Officers’ rest days can be cancelled for “an exigency of the service”. This is defined as “a pressing need or requirement that cannot be reasonably avoided”.
Ché said: “Policing is unique in that, unlike the other emergency services, officers are liable to have their leave and rest days cancelled at extremely short notice to respond to operational demand.
“This year has been significantly challenging for colleagues on the frontline, who have worked themselves to the bone to protect the public and the NHS during a pandemic, alongside widespread Black Lives Matter protests. But this additional pressure is clearly impacting on their wellbeing and personal time.
“I completely accept that as a result of the current crisis the Government has financial pressures, but policing must be a priority and a genuine increase of 20,000 officers is essential to ease the pressure on officers.
“The Federation will continue to work with forces and stakeholders to improve conditions and support our members when they are struggling. Things should never have got as bad as they have.”
He added: “It is vital officers know their rights when it comes to cancelled rest days – if less than 15 days’ notice is given when an officer is made to work on a rest day they can get time and a half or, in any other case, another rest day. This should be notified to the member within four days of notification of the requirement to work.
Some forces recently had to cancel officers’ leave so that they could work extra hours policing the lifting of lockdown, as pubs were re-opened. The COVID-19 crisis has also delayed many forces’ recruitment drives, making it harder for existing officers to take the time off that they are owed.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said: “The wellbeing of officers and staff is taken extremely seriously at a national level, with work ongoing to support forces in how best to manage the volume of rest days owed.
“All forces are aware of the issue and are often faced with challenging decisions around operational pressures that mean rest days are, in exceptional cases, cancelled. These decisions rest with chiefs within their own forces, and will depend on the operational pressures in each force area.
“Forces are in regular contact with various staff associations to address concerns and bring about the necessary change to ensure that rest days are taken.”