Police Scotland has accepted that it needs to reverse its ban on recruiting colour-blind trainees. This is in the face of Employment Tribunal proceedings alleging that this disadvantaged more men when compared to women; the reason being that more men are affected by colour blindness.
A recruit, whose application to become a police officer was rejected by Police Scotland because he was moderately colour-blind, brought proceedings for indirect sex discrimination.
Whilst the Force was concerned with the ability of its police officers to identify what suspects are wearing or identify a vehicle sought by police (in other words potentially legitimate aims to safeguard the public) it effectively accepted the moderately colour-blind recruit’s argument that their blanket ban on recruitment was not a proportionate means of achieving those aims. The recruit argued that a proportionate means could include pairing a colour-blind officer with a full vision officer thus allowing him to be eligible to become a police officer.
Police Scotland has now amended its policy in line with Scottish Government guidance published in 2003 that full colour perception is not a requirement to become an operational police officer. In future, the force will consider individual recruits on a case-by-case basis.
Implications for employers
This case demonstrates how indirect discrimination can arise from an apparently neutral requirement and how the defence available to employers, namely that the requirement is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, works in practice.
To help spot potentially indirectly discriminatory provisions, criteria or practices operating in your business:
1. Consider whether any requirement applied to your employees disadvantages a group who share a protected characteristic in some way.
2. If so, consider: is there an alternative to a blanket requirement? Is that requirement really necessary for your business?
Examples of practices giving rise to potential indirect discrimination include:
- The requirement to work full-time (indirect sex discrimination against women).
- A blanket ban on wearing jewellery can disadvantage employees who wear jewellery for religious reasons (indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief). An example of a defence could be if the requirement was for health and safety reasons.
- The requirement to speak English (potentially indirect discrimination on the grounds of race/nationally).