Met Police’s gendered uniforms could constitute form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010
The Sun reported that the Met Police could be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 by not providing separate uniforms for gender-fluid and non-binary police officers.
An officer who went by the name Alex Blue told the newspaper that failing to provide an alternative to the gendered uniforms could constitute indirect discrimination. The officer suggested providing uniforms that are not made specifically for male or female officers instead.
Gendered differences in the Met police uniform include separate hats and neck-ware. Female officers are expected to wear bowler hats and wear cravats whereas their male counterparts wear helmets, flat caps and ties.
The 2019 edition of the MPS dress code states: “When on foot patrol, male constables and sergeants must wear the beat duty helmet, and women the bowler.
“When wearing long-sleeve shirts, women must wear cravats and men must wear black ties.”
In a statement, the Met police said that the contract with its current uniform provider is set to expire in 2023. In the meantime, the force is “considering what it requires of uniforms in the future to ensure officers are best able to carry out their job, while continuing to adhere to equality law”.
“In the very early stages of that work, the Met is seeking the views of police officers and staff who have a wide range of protected characteristics, including those who identify as non-binary or gender fluid.”
The force said that this “important and valued feedback” would be taken into account ahead of a new contract being agreed, and added: “The Met is proud to have a diverse workforce and has always ensured it adheres to the Equalities Act 2010”.
Equality campaigner Peter Tatchell backed the idea of one uniform for all Met police officers, telling The Sun: “Separate uniforms for officers is a legacy of the sexist past”.
But not all are in favour of the force considering the change. Former police officer Harry Miller told LBC radio that while he agrees that gender neutral uniforms are a good idea, the Met Police’s reason for moving towards them is a form of “pandering”.
He said: “The sensible thing is to have one straightforward uniform. Practically speaking I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
“What worries me is that this is just pandering again. Gender neutral uniforms are a good idea, I think the reason they’re going for it is a bad one.
“If this is pandering to the gender lot, that is just a ridiculous waste of space.”
Concern around uniforms constituting a form of discrimination follows a 2020 employment tribunal which ruled that an engineer’s gender-fluid identity was a “protected characteristic” under the Equalities Act 2010.
While the case focused on Jaguar Land Rover’s failure to prevent discrimination – in the form of colleagues referring to the gender-fluid individual as ‘it’ – it has wider implications, specifically for organisations, like police and armed forces, that require employees to wear gendered uniforms, as doing so could be considered a form of discrimination against protected characteristics.