South Yorkshire police officers owed 2,252 days off

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South Yorkshire police officers are owed 2,252 days off after having rest days cancelled, new figures reveal.

The force has 2,318 officers in the force, meaning that on average every officer has had a rest day cancelled over recent months.

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But figures, released by police forces across the country, show that some officers are owed well over a week off in unclaimed rest days, amid claims of staff shortages across England and Wales.

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The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said cancelling rest days was having a worrying impact on morale, mental and physical health, and the efficiency of the service.

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Snapshot figures released under Freedom of Information laws show there were almost a quarter-of-a-million rest days owed to 70,000 police officers in England and Wales as of September 17 last year - the last time the country's terror alert was at 'critical' following the Parsons Green terror attack, often resulting in holidays and time off being cancelled.

Some 237,697 rest days were either cancelled, outstanding or waiting to be re-rostered per officer, according to just over 30 forces with data.

Calum McLeod, national chairman of the Police Federation, said: "I think this paints a picture of what policing is like in England and Wales at this time - policing is in crisis.

"We do not have the resources at the moment to meet the demands of the public - whether that be in an event, a terrorist incident, or whether that be from a police officer's perspective of actually achieving their rest days.

"It's really important that anybody has rest between their shift patterns because if that isn't happening what you tend to find is people getting fatigued very easily.

"If that isn't happening and rest days are being banked, it's a dangerous situation for the public, it's a dangerous situation for policing and it needs to be addressed.

"The Government needs to take this situation seriously because it's quite clear the model is not working. Officers put their lives on the line for the public day after day.

"They need to listen, they need to listen quickly, because if they don't we are on the brink of disaster."

Zuleika Payne, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: "This news doesn’t come as a surprise to serving officers. This situation has been gathering momentum for some considerable time.

"We always said that the cuts would have consequences and this is an illustration of that.

"All too often, officers are having their rest days cancelled in order to police events such as football matches and demonstrations.

"As part of the cost saving, officers are notified within such a timeframe which means they do not automatically receive payment, but instead a day off in lieu.

"The Police Regulations, which are a statutory instrument, are very prescriptive here. Regulations state that an officer must identify another day within a three month period in order to take the rest day which is owed to them.

"Due to the low officer numbers, the opportunities to do so become narrow because there simply aren’t enough officers to cover.

"The other problem arises when officers, having re-rostered their rest day, have the new rest day cancelled as the force has to yet again meet demand. This pattern of robbing Peter to pay Paul is not sustainable.

"More concerning is the impact this has on officer’s work-life balance. Is it any wonder our officers are suffering from stress and fatigue, when you see how much time is owed to them?”

South Yorkshire's Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: "South Yorkshire Police is committed to ensuring its staff maintain a healthy work-life balance, while providing a quality service to those who live, work or visit the county.

"Nationally, policing has been under increased pressure over the recent years with unprecedented demands being placed upon the service. Simultaneously funding has reduced, which has mandated a reduction in our staffing levels.

"Nevertheless, we recently implemented our neighbourhood policing model in South Yorkshire, which has been well received by the public. It has allowed us to increase engagement with the communities of South Yorkshire, and is designed precisely to avoid the situation where we simply responded to events after they have occurred.

"The inevitable consequence of events such as the horrific terror attacks in London and Manchester in 2017, or large scale football fixtures like the Steel City derby, is that the organisation has to deploy additional police officers, who would otherwise be on a rest day, to maintain public order and provide reassurance to residents within South Yorkshire.

"Quite rightly, officers are then owed a rest day in lieu of that which has been lost, and our policy is to ensure it is re-rostered to another date within 12 months. As an organisation, we have worked hard over recent years to ensure officers are able to re-roster their rest days in a timely manner. As a result of this determined effort, we have reduced the number of outstanding rest days over a number of years to the current level.

"The successful management of re-rostered rest days within South Yorkshire Police is illustrative of our on-going commitment to the health and wellbeing of our staff. Policing occupies a unique role within society and we are extremely fortunate to employ dedicated people who are prepared to have their domestic plans changed at short notice in order to provide a public service at times of critical need."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Policing, by its nature, can be a very challenging and demanding job and it is the responsibility of chief officers - supported by the College of Policing - to ensure that good management systems are in place to support officers in their work.

"Police forces have a statutory duty to manage the working time and welfare of officers and ensure they can take the leave and rest days to which they are entitled."