Anna Rickards, Detective Inspector at Greater Manchester Police, and Chair of the GMP Association of Women in Policing, spoke at our recent Supporting Women in Policing Conference about Flexible and Hybrid Working in the Police.

She said “In an effort to foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment, today’s focus is on enhancing awareness and implementation of hybrid and flexible working models within policing. This initiative aims to tackle the so-called “line manager lottery,” where the availability of flexible working arrangements is often dependent on individual line managers or districts rather than being universally operational.

Challenges and Personal Experiences

A significant challenge within the police force is maintaining communication with staff on long-term absences and providing robust support for returners. Additionally, there is a need to drive cultural change and combat stigma around part-time and flexible workers. Effective recruitment strategies that promote part-time roles and job sharing can also enhance diversity within the force.

Reflecting on personal experiences, it becomes clear that while policing remains a passion, systemic issues can create substantial barriers. For example, the inflexibility in accommodating maternity leave and flexible working requests often places undue stress on officers. One officer recounted how, during her maternity leave, she was assured flexible working would be approved, only to be told three weeks before returning that it was not possible. This left her in a difficult position, struggling to balance childcare with the demands of night shifts and early morning starts.

Such experiences underscore the critical importance of supportive and proactive line management. Positive examples highlight how effective leadership can make a significant difference. One officer shared how a supportive line manager facilitated a smooth and encouraging return to work after maternity leave, contrasting sharply with previous negative experiences.

Driving Culture Change and Supporting Part-Time Workers

To address these issues, it is essential to promote a cultural shift within policing. This includes dismantling preconceived notions about part-time workers and recognizing their valuable contributions. For instance, part-time roles should not be seen as less capable or dedicated. An example from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) illustrates this point, where a part-time detective sergeant proved highly effective despite initial scepticism from superiors.

The “30 by 30” initiative in the United States, which aims to increase female representation in policing, offers valuable insights. However, retention is equally crucial. The focus should be on creating an environment where part-time workers feel valued and supported, ensuring they remain in the force.

Practical Steps and Innovations

GMP has implemented several innovative measures to support flexible working and retention. A notable example is the use of WhatsApp groups to maintain communication among officers on maternity leave. These groups provide peer support and practical advice, reducing pressure on HR and line managers while fostering a sense of community.

Additionally, the introduction of the “mummy MOT,” which includes both physical and mental health assessments for returning officers, represents a significant step forward. This initiative ensures that returning officers are fit for duty and receive the support they need to transition back to work smoothly.

GMP’s approval of a paid phased return to work for those on maternity leave is another progressive move. This policy allows officers to gradually increase their working hours over a four-week period, easing their transition back into full-time roles.

Overcoming Cultural Resistance

Despite these advancements, cultural resistance to hybrid working persists in some areas. Certain specialisms within the force remain sceptical about the feasibility of part-time roles. However, practical examples demonstrate that with the right support and flexibility, part-time and flexible working can be successfully integrated into various aspects of policing.

For instance, during major incidents like the Manchester bombing, the competence and compassion of officers were paramount, regardless of their working hours. This highlights the importance of focusing on the quality and dedication of officers rather than rigidly adhering to traditional working models.


In conclusion, fostering a supportive environment for hybrid and flexible working within policing requires a multi-faceted approach. By raising awareness among line managers, driving cultural change, and implementing practical support measures, we can create a more inclusive and effective police force. This not only benefits individual officers but also enhances overall operational efficiency and public trust in the police.”

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Anna Rickards, Detective Inspector at Greater Manchester Police, and Chair of the GMP Association of Women in Policing, spoke at our recent Supporting Women in Policing Conference about Flexible and Hybrid Working in the Police.

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