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Employment Law Speed Read – 29/01/18

This week we look at how a tribunal found that a Police dog-handler assessment was discriminatory on the grounds of sex.

Carter v The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire & Ors

In Carter v The Chief Constable of Gloucestershire & Ors the Employment Tribunal found that the Police dog-handler assessment set by three Constabularies Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon and Somerset, (known collectively as the ‘Tri-Force’) was discriminatory on the grounds of sex.


Miss Carter (C) was a Police Constable serving with the Gloucestershire Constabulary. In November 2016, she applied to be a dog-handler and subsequently attended the dog-handler assessment.

The assessment included a run around a course with dogs. The course was comprised of various elements, which included steep inclines and descents, lifting dogs over obstacles and navigating down a 3 foot wall. This part of the assessment lasted between 2 ½ and 3 ½ hours with no breaks.

As soon as this was completed, the candidates had to carry their dogs for over 70 metres, uphill. C, was initially given a dog, called Hulk that weighed 35kg to carry. She was unable to lift or carry the dog after she had completed the previous intensive activity.  She was then permitted to try to carry a dog that weighed 5kg less. Again, she failed to complete the ‘Dog Carry’ section of the assessment and as a result, C was told by the assessors that she would not be permitted to carry on, and was withdrawn from the assessment.

C brought a claim for sex discrimination against the forces that implemented the test.

Employment Tribunal 

The Employment Tribunal found for the Claimant. They held that the assessment was a provision, criteria or practice (PCP) which put women at a particular disadvantage compared to men. The Tri-Force could not show that the PCP was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, and consequently were guilty of indirect discrimination.

In coming to this decision, the Tribunal noted that the National College of Policing had set out in its reports that fitness tests could be potentially discriminatory on the grounds of sex and noted that any derogation from the standard test they set could carry a risk of legal challenge. The Police had tried to argue that the assessment was an aptitude test, however the Tribunal found that the test had been applied wholly as a physical test of fitness. The dog-handler test was tougher than the National College of Policing’s standard test and put women at a group disadvantage.

The Tribunal found that women were unrepresented as dog-handlers in all three forces. For example, out of the 24 posts in Avon and Somerset, only 3 were held by women. The amount of women applying for the posts was also noticeably lower.

Although the Tribunal found that the Police had shown a legitimate aim, they found that the assessment could not be justified. At least half of dog-handlers currently serving had not carried out the test, nor would they be required to take it. Therefore, the test was not appropriate or necessary.

The Tribunal awarded C nearly £15,000 in compensation for the indirect sex discrimination.


This case reiterates to employers the importance of making sure that any assessment they impose on candidates does not have a discriminatory effect on those with a protected characteristic. If it does, then employers must show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

In order to reduce the likelihood of tests being discriminatory, employers should ensure that they carry out an equality impact assessments and monitor results to ensure there are no adverse effects on a particular group.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our employment team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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