Police Scotland is delaying the start date of its controversial no-beards policy, STV News understands.
New rules to ensure frontline officers and staff are clean-shaven were reportedly due to begin on May 29.
Police said the proposals would give their workers the “best protection” while wearing protective FFP3 masks on duty.
But the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents officers, questioned the science behind the decision and said it had received an “unprecedented” level of concern from its members.
The organisation said a consultation into the changes will now continue into June.
SPF general secretary David Kennedy said: “I can confirm the SPF received the consultation document with the Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessment on the May 12 and we will respond to Police Scotland within 28 days.”
Police Scotland, the UK’s second biggest force behind the Met, has about 17,000 officers and 6,000 staff.
In April, it announced the update on its internal website in a post by assistant chief constable Alan Speirs.
He said: “The safety of our officers and staff is a priority and the policy around the use of respiratory equipment is being implemented to protect those on the frontline.
“Significant learning from the Covid pandemic identified that the FFP3 mask – which is face-fitted and requires users to be clean-shaven – offers the most appropriate and effective respiratory protection to officers and staff.
“While the risk from coronavirus has lowered, wider risks remain to those attending calls, such as fires, road accidents and chemical incidents which require PPE to be worn.
“The Respiratory Protective Equipment policy mandates that, where it can be reasonably foreseen that an officer or member of staff will use an FFP3 mask in the course of their duties, they should be clean-shaven.”
The police chief said there would be exemptions on “cultural, disability or medical” grounds.
“In these circumstances, Police Scotland is seeking to introduce an alternative type of respiratory protection,” he said.
“We are listening to a wide range of views on this matter and will undertake full consultation with all relevant staff associations ahead of implementation.
“A full human rights impact assessment is also being carried out as part of this process.”
Following the announcement though, four officers from the road policing unit said they would begin legal action against Police Scotland on the grounds of discrimination and disability.
The SPF’s general secretary also claimed no equality or human rights assessment has been carried out on the policy.
Mr Kennedy said: “People would be facing misconduct if they didn’t shave.
“Some officers may have to shave twice a day for these masks to work.”
He continued: “We have concerns about the science behind it, the way that Police Scotland has stated that officers are in danger. It’s having a real impact on our members.
“Where is the science behind this to show that officers are in danger?
“We’re not surprised in a sense because we knew that Police Scotland after Covid had FFP3 masks forced upon them in a sense, because of the Covid, but what we are surprised about now after Covid, the science behind the masks tells you that it gets caught through the eyes.
“And now they are looking at using these masks in a different area of policing.
“We started off with drips of officers coming to us and now we’ve had what I would describe as an unprecedented amount of officers coming to us with concerns.
“Concerns they also have is that these incidents that they say are unsafe, where they not safe before?”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country