Police forces are misleading officers and denying them their entitlements to Time Off for Dependants (TOfD) and Parental Bereavement Leave, the Police Federation has warned.
Researchers who examined the TOfD policy of the 43 forces in England and Wales found that just one was close to acceptable.
They discovered the policies of some forces, including Cambridgeshire Police, state “there is no legal right to be paid” for TOfD, even though it is treated as duty and duty is always paid for a police officer.
A number of forces also limit the number of paid TOfD days or have put a limit on the number of days that can be taken off consecutively.
The Police Federation has pointed out that force policies cannot override Police Regulations, and the regulations do not state such restrictions or limit the number of occasions a year the entitlement can be taken.
Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom said: “TOfD is essentially about caring and providing support for loved ones so we are very concerned to hear that many forces downplay this important entitlement with thin documents which fail to explain how extensive it can actually be.
“I would urge any of our members who are experiencing issues with TOfD or Parental Bereavement Leave to get in touch with us immediately.
“It is an important benefit to all our members, but particularly for women, who often find themselves with a greater responsibility for child and elderly care within families.”
Police Federation national equality lead Ian Saunders warned some forces were deliberately downplaying or misrepresenting these entitlements in their policies.
He said: “The low take-up of TOfD in most forces is a sign they have effectively minimised something they should instead be actively promoting to enable those with dependants to remain as police officers and continue to serve the public.
“If this is partly a cost-cutting exercise, then forces are mistaken. The cost of losing those in service with invaluable experience massively outweighs the cost of paying officers to take this leave.
“There is also a need for culture change as we found officers taking this leave are made to feel they are letting their team down or should be grateful for taking TOfD leave even in instances where this is less than their entitlement.
“If forces want to successfully recruit and, just as importantly, retain, they need to see the bigger picture.
“We have presented our findings to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and we would urge chiefs to act upon it.”