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Interview: ‘Better maternity support would attract more women to service’

New national maternity guidance has just been approved by the NPCC and is due to be rolled out to forces imminently. Ahead of its release, Police Oracle spoke with one of the driving forces behind the guidance, DS Keri Alldritt.

“We’re trying to attract females to policing, we should have around 50-50 numbers. In terms of gender, we’re actually just over 30 per cent females – so we’ve still got a way to go with that,” DS Keri Alldritt told Police Oracle. 

“By making it more attractive in terms of maternity policies and support that's offered to females, hopefully that number will rise, and it will alleviate some of the barriers that people might feel are there.” 

The latest government statistics show that there are 142,526 full time officers as of March 2022, 34.4 per cent of whom are female. This represents an increase from 31.7 per cent as of March 2019. 

DS Alldritt said that maternity policies and support are "a bit of a postcode lottery.” 

“So, if you have a good supervisor, you generally would get a good experience and good support. But if you don’t, then you might be left without risk assessments, working long hours […] we've had female officers that have been sort of pushed from one department to another because nobody knows what to do with them.”

DS Alldritt (pictured below) joined GMP 17 years ago, leaving to train and practice as a midwife, before then returning to the force and having two children herself. She has just recently moved over to North Yorkshire. 

Her own experience of being pregnant while working included being moved from a CID role to a role she didn’t want to do with a day’s notice, as well as meeting barriers when trying to apply for an acting sergeant’s role. As a result, DS Alldritt got involved with BAWP within GMP and pushed for better support. She is now doing the same with North Yorkshire. 

She has also been part of a working group which has written maternity guidance recently ratified by the NPCC and she has established a new Twitter page ‘Blue Bumps and Babies’ to share advice and support. 

One area DS Alldritt highlighted was the level of awareness and support around physical changes that come with being pregnant such as fatigue and anaemia. She also mentioned problems with the job-related fitness test. 

“You have issues when you come back from having a baby, for example pelvic floor issues. In some cases, it’s not necessarily the actual fitness [affecting how you perform], but actually you're scared of running and leaking urine. 

“There's also a bit of a taboo [around physical changes], sometimes the female officer wouldn’t want to discuss certain things with their own supervisor, it might be a gender related barrier it might not, and then for a supervisor, male or female, sometimes there’s some awkward questions around pregnancy. 

“These will occasionally need to be quite intimate discussions, but we're all adults.” 

DS Alldritt says she believes there should be an element of maternity information included within sergeant’s courses, describing it as “a massive gap”. 

She explained that GMP also work with franchise The Mummy MOT where physios conduct assessments and can help give advice on areas such as posture as someone gets used to carrying a baby around regularly. 

“It's an extra thing that we can offer as employer to make our job more attractive to people and to provide that real individualised care to officers,” she said. 

Another concern was around the level of contact with officers who are off on maternity leave, which may mean they don’t have the same level of awareness of job opportunities. 

From January last year, police maternity pay went up from 18 weeks full pay to 26 weeks. Shared parental leave is also an option.

DS Alldritt said: “A lot of women will go off on maternity leave, and not have any contact from anybody until the near to return.

“They don’t feel involved, and they miss out on job opportunities [that they might be eligible for]”. 

On the other hand, regarding childcare costs and the discussion around pay at the moment, she said that the police service is generally “quite good at flexible working policies to try to accommodate to make it as less of a financial impact on officers as possible”. 

GMP recently introduced the part-time programme where officers will work 20 hours a week on a job share basis. 

DS Alldritt hopes that the guidance due to be shared soon will reinforce best practice and reduce disparity between forces. 

“There are barriers to females coming into policing. But I hope that this is going to be changing soon with that conversation, that openness, and awareness around language,” she said.

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