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Police dog handler awarded £15,000 after fitness test deemed discriminatory

View profile for Gemma Wilson
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Police dog handler awarded £15,000 after fitness test deemed discriminatory

It has been reported that in January 2018, a Gloucestershire police dog handler was awarded almost £15,000 by an employment tribunal after failing a fitness test, which she alleged was discriminatory towards women. Although she remained employed by Gloucestershire Police, she was not able to become a dog handler as a result of failing the test.

The test included carrying a police dog, weighing up to 35kg for over ten miles. It was allegedly concluded that the test of pace and stamina was more demanding for women than men, and therefore the fitness test had purportedly proven more difficult for women to pass than men. This was reportedly reaffirmed by the fact that of the 48 dog handlers at Gloucestershire Constabulary, just four are women.

The Judge in this case reportedly said: ‘where a standard test has negative impacts on members of a protected group, here women, then it either needs to be changed or objectively justified’.

The alleged defence to the claim was that dog handlers need to be at a certain level of fitness to be able to track criminals over various terrains. However, the requirements of the test were reportedly ‘over and above the standard set by the National College of Policing’ and as such, the Judge held that the level of fitness test constituted indirect sexual discrimination.

As a result of this case, it has been alleged that three police forces must now review the way in which dog handlers are recruited after they were told that the test was ‘too tough’ for women.

What should you do if you have been discriminated against?

If you feel that have been discriminated against; you should take action.

Firstly, you should raise a complaint with the organisation whom you believe to be subjecting you to the unfavourable treatment to see if your issue can be resolved informally.

You may also be able to bring a claim in the employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010, and you should seek legal advice in respect of this.

Please be aware that strict time limits apply, and you only have three months less one day from the discriminatory act to enter into ACAS Early Conciliation. If this is unsuccessful, you can bring a claim for discrimination in the employment tribunal. However, please be aware that strict time frames remain in place and you should take great care in calculating your post-ACAS limitation date (the date by which your claim should be issued in the employment tribunal).

If you need further advice regarding discrimination, please contact our department on  0175 321 6399.

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