College of Policing releases workplace adjustments report

New discovery report outlines recommendations for improving diversity and inclusion in policing

The College of Policing has released a discovery report on workplace adjustments (also known as reasonable adjustments) supporting disabled and neurodivergent officers and staff in the police service.

The report was commissioned by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) as part of the Police Uplift Programme, the Government’s commitment to recruit an additional 20,000 officers by March 2023. Research was carried out by the College and PurpleSpace, the professional networking hub for disabled employees, with Force leads and individual officers and staff invited to participate in surveys run over the early part of 2021.

The report features quotations and personal stories, benchmarking studies from the public and private sector, and recommendations for change. Good practice by some police forces is highlighted, but the research also identifies a widespread lack of understanding of the importance of workplace adjustments in enabling disabled and neurodivergent staff to realise their potential. Key focus areas for improving inclusion across policing include strong leadership, effective employee networks, culture and language in relation to disability and neurodiversity.

A working group chaired by Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, the NPCC’s lead for disability, is reviewing the recommendations. DCC Blakeman said: “Our colleagues’ stories show us that simple adjustments can make a huge difference, empowering individuals to give their best and helping forces to build strong inclusive teams that are reflective of our communities.”

Some key takeaways from the individuals, HR business partners and diversity leads taking part in the survey:

  • 25 police forces had achieved Disability Confident Level 2 accreditation, with a further five Forces and the College of Policing achieving the top Level 3 tier (Disability Confident Leader)
  • 45% of Force Diversity & Inclusion strategies made reference to neurodiversity
  • 53% of HR departments were confident in the ability of first and second line managers to have proactive and inclusive conversations with their staff about disability
  • 69% of individuals had personally experienced, or were aware of a colleague having experienced, refusal of a reasonable adjustment request

Click on the image above to view the report page on the College of Policing website, or click on the link to download the PDF (133 pages). (A 3 minute video summary of the key points is available from Rank Success.)

The NPAA would like to thank the College of Policing and NPCC for the opportunity to participate in this project. ∎

“I used my experience to improve life for others”

From an autistic Police Constable to Police Sergeant – how one officer successfully challenged the system and improved career prospects for neurodivergent colleagues

Sergeant Suzanne Burke

Back in April we published a blog by Suzanne Burke, a Constable with the Metropolitan Police Service, in which she spoke candidly about her experiences as an autistic police officer. For several years, Suzanne had tried unsuccessfully to achieve promotion, having passed the exams but finding the final interview stage to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Suzanne volunteered as a Police Federation representative in order to help colleagues who are neurodivergent themselves or need advice and support in managing neurodivergent colleagues. With the help of the Federation, Suzanne obtained funding for a National Autistic Society workplace assessment and secured the reasonable adjustments she needed. Since writing her blog, and with this additional support in place, Suzanne was successful in achieving promotion to the rank of Sergeant.

Suzanne said: “I’m now in a Metropolitan Police Service that is getting better all the time and there’s a willingness to change, even right up at the top.”

Read more about Suzanne’s personal journey in the Summer 2021 issue of the MPS Federation London Beat Magazine (click on the links for the online magazine and a PDF download of the article). ∎

Equality vs Equity

As a support network for neurodivergent police officers and staff, one of our most frequently-asked questions concerns reasonable adjustments. A reasonable adjustment is defined as a change in the workplace to remove or reduce the effect of an employee or job applicant’s disability, when carrying out or applying for a job. Disabled employees and applicants, including* those with neurodivergent conditions such as autism and dyslexia, are entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act to help them overcome the limitations of their disability or condition at work or in seeking employment.

An important concept in the reasonable adjustment process is that it is sometimes necessary to treat people differently in order to provide everyone with an equal opportunity to succeed. This is best illustrated by the following graphic, created by the Canadian City for All Women Initiative:

The first image shows what can happen when everyone is treated equally – some people will lose out due to the effect of their disability or other protected characteristic. The second image shows equity, or fairness, and how this differs from equality – by giving some people additional support, everyone has an equal chance of success.

Reasonable adjustments in selection and promotion processes are sometimes misunderstood as ‘special treatment’ that gives some people an unfair advantage (and therefore disadvantages others). It’s important to understand that adjustments are there to ensure that disabled and neurodivergent applicants have the same chance of success as everyone else – the second image in the graphic. A typical example is wording the interview questions for an autistic candidate to remove any ambiguity, and allowing the candidate to have each question in writing to refer to when they provide their answer. Research by the University of Bath has shown that autistic interviewees can over-analyse or misinterpret questions and struggle to mentally organise their evidence to fit what is being asked – adjusting the style of questions, providing thinking time and written prompts allows the candidate to overcome these difficulties and present themselves as well as other applicants. (Candidates with dyslexia and other neurodivergent conditions may also benefit from these adjustments.)

Continuing the example of workplace interviews, some employers have gone a step further by providing all candidates with neurodivergent-friendly questions, preparation time and written prompts. This is an example of the third image in the graphic – removing the systemic barrier so that no one is disadvantaged or needs to ask for adjustments. With a little thought and effort, this approach can be applied to any workplace environment, process or culture – and as with the interview example, it has the potential to benefit everyone, disabled or not. ∎

*Neurodivergent conditions may meet the criteria of a disability – assessed on an individual basis