Police Scotland has been inundated with internal complaints after announcing plans to introduce a new clean-shaven policy for frontline officers.
The force said the clean-shaven rule has been created to provide officers with the “best protection” while wearing protective FFP3 masks on duty.
The announcement means hundreds of officers will have to shave off their beards and moustaches in the next few weeks.
Scottish Police Federation (SPF) general secretary David Kennedy said he has “never seen so many complaints come in” during his time as a full-time official.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, he said: “The health and safety executive guidance is that a policy like this should only be utilised as a last resort and there have been relevant questions raised by officers as to why this policy is now being proposed.”
Police Scotland said there will be exemptions to the clean-shaven rule on religious or medical grounds, but Mr Kennedy claimed no equality or human rights assessment has been carried out on the policy.
He added: “People would be facing misconduct if they didn’t shave. Some officers may have to shave twice a day for these masks to work.”
Mr Kennedy said there has been no consultation on the policy as yet, and hopes the force will revisit the policy, arguing there are “other health and safety issues” it should be focusing on.
Police Scotland, the UK’s second biggest force behind the Met, has about 17,000 officers and 6,000 staff.
Assistant chief constable Alan Speirs 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 exception to this policy covers officers and staff who cannot shave for religious, cultural, disability or medical reasons. In these circumstances, Police Scotland is seeking to introduce an alternative type of respiratory protection.
“We understand the frustrations among those affected on the frontline, but the use of RPE is absolutely necessary to protect officers and staff from serious health risks.
“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.”