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'Discriminatory' policy treats ponytails and beards differently


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PC Gordon Thomas Downey was temporarily transferred from his unit for refusing to comply with facial hair policies.

'Discriminatory' policy treats ponytails and beards differently


Date - 28th February 2019
By - Hermione Wright
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It’s one for rule for men and another for women when it comes to policing facial hair and ponytail policies, an ongoing employment tribunal heard.

PC Gordon Thomas Downey was temporarily transferred from the PSNI’s Armed Response Unit for refusing to comply with rules for officers to be clean-shaven.

Armed with his lawyers, he is fighting the rule – allegedly put in place to ensure officers can safely use breathing apparatus.  

However, part of his case hinges on the fact that women are also supposed to comply to strict hair policies – they are not allowed to sport ponytails, with incidents reported of female officers being pulled to the ground by their tresses and kicked.  

Despite knowledge of the risks, the tribunal heard this week that no known action has ever been taken against female officers for non-compliance with ponytail rules – something the officer’s lawyer claims is discriminatory.

However, the tribunal heard that any failure to ensure women complied with the policy was at unit level rather than signalling a force-wide problem.

As part of the fight against current rules, the makers of the masks explained that facial hair would need to be  substantial to prevent the equipment from working properly. The mask manufacturer even promotes men growing moustaches during the annual charity initiative, Movember.

It was also made clear that other UK forces are more lenient and allow neatly trimmed beards which are not thought to affect the seal of the breathing equipment.

Officers even said that the masks not been used for 10 years, something the uniform and protective measures committee claimed they were not aware of.

When approached, the PSNI said: “As there is ongoing legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

The Northern Ireland Fed also refused to comment until matters are concluded.

The case continues.

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