A police control room phone handler said she was forced out of the job she loved because of her hair colour.
Lisa Hewitt said she had a “bright and distinctive” style of hair and nails for work for ten years without any complaints and attended her job interviews in that style.
And the 42-year-old wonders if she was “picked on” in an effort to force her out from her job at the Warwickshire Police control room at Leek Wootton. “I think they were trying to save on a redundancy payment. I’ve heard there are redundancies coming.”
Warwickshire Police and its partner West Mercia Police have undergone £30 million of cuts and now have to find another £30 million of cuts.
Mrs Hewitt said: “I believe I was singled out, but for what reason, I really don’t know.
“I was picked on and bullied while others with bright hair and nails were not.”
Mrs Hewitt said prior to the introduction of a new dress code she was on sick leave with work-related stress – June 4 to July 2 and July 7 to September 24. She worked on the non-emergency 101 line and internal calls and said stress was brought on when staff were not replaced, saying she often was the only person in Warwickshire dealing with 101 calls.
“Many a time I was on my own on an eight-hour weekend shift. On some weekdays I was left to run all of Warwickshire 101 calls on my own for four to five hours. People were complaining that they could not get through on 101 and were calling 999. I asked for help but was told I had to cope. They were putting so much work on me and I just could not cope.”
On October 8 she was told she had to change her hair colour by November 1 – a style she had for 16 months – or face “potential dismissal”. Mrs Hewitt said she got so fed up with being told to change her style and the threat of disciplinary action that she resigned with a month’s notice and left on January 14. “I did not like going in but I did to serve my notice and act professionally. I loved that job. They have lost ten years’ of knowledge and experience.
“I was not being awkward, but when they asked me to change my hair colour, I refused. My distinctive style is part of my personality.
“I had never had complaints about my work. I was always well-dressed. I did a good job and my hair colour should not affect it.”
Mrs Hewitt lives with her husband Martin and two children in Kineton and now works as a sales co-ordinator.
Tania Coppola, head of people services at both forces, said: “We treat the employment of our workforce very seriously and have an organisational change policy to ensure we treat everyone fairly. The welfare of our staff is of upmost importance and a priority.
“Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police have high standards for their workforce and we have a number of policies, including a dress and appearance policy, which includes clear rules and guidance on dress code. We follow our policies and challenge officers and staff where appropriate. It is not appropriate for us to comment on individual employees, regardless of whether they are a current or previous employee.”